Rossini-L'Italiana in Algeri (Stojin/Mironov/Frizza) (2008) (NTSC)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 135:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Vincent Battaillon
Studio
Distributor
Bel Air Classiques
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Christianne Stotijn
Maxim Mironov
Marco Vinco
Ruber Drole
Giorgio Caoduro
Elisaveta Martirosyan
Sabina Willeit
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Gioaochino Rossini


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Italian Linear PCM 48/24 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

The field of classical music is replete with stories of workhorses churning out inspired pieces at a rapid rate. However, there can't be many more prodigious outputs than that of Gioachino Rossini who turned out a massive 39 operas in 19 years, 30 of which were written in the first 9 years, starting at the tender age of 18.

Abundance doesn't always equate to eternal fame and today few of Rossini's operas get the same regularity of performance as those of Puccini, Verdi or Mozart. The dramatic opera purists point out that most of his output can be equated to light fluff (even his Othello had a happy ending!). Of course, Il Barbieri de Seviglia (The Barber of Seville) is his most famous work (leaving aside the William Tell Overture) but of the others L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers) is one of the most loved and performed. It was written in 1816 when Rossini was a bold 21 year old.

The reasons for the continuing popularity of the work are perhaps to be found in the sprightly and inventive orchestration, the wealth of tuneful arias and the sheer joy of the piece. It is not a work that has commonly featured on DVD with a 1987 production being the only other version available for home viewing. This set - recorded live at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence in July 2006 seeks to fill the gap.

Algeri is a dramma giacosa in 2 acts. The roles / cast and voices for this production are:

The Arnold Shonberg Choir provides the choral work with the music provided by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under the baton Riccardo Frizza.

Describing the plot of Algeri is to invite snickers being so full of improbabilities and farcical situations. The libretto was written by Angelo Anelli and was typical of the plays and other operas like Mozart's Il Seraglio which functioned as exotica and a paean to Italian womanhood.

There is trouble in the harem of the mighty Bey Mustafa. He has tired of his wife Elvira. She lacks that certain something and he orders his lieutenant, the pirate Haly to find him a new one. Not just any old girl - it has to be an Italian one! He plans to marry Elvira to his captured Italian slave Lindoro.

Lindoro is panicked. He loves Isabella who he believes to be pining for him back in Italy. She isn't - she has come across the waves to search for him. She brings in tow a luckless suitor Taddeo. Haly is ordered to find the girl or else!

Fortunately, Haly has managed to capture a ship with a fair Italian maiden on board - Isabella! She introduces Taddeo as her uncle and agrees to be taken to the harem. Although initially concerned for her own welfare she steels her resolve in the aria Cruda sorte! Amor tiranno! Meanwhile, Mustafa has told Lindoro that he is free to return to Italy as long as he takes Elvira with him. Though troubled he relishes the chance to return home to Isabella.

Isabella is brought before Mustafa who boasts of his powers of taming women. Fat chance - Isabella is a woman of considerable moxy who can twist men around her little finger. The scene is set for a battle of wills between the unstoppable force and the immovable object. Rest assured, it all ends in a blinding burst of song and plot tangles.

This production is staged simply but effectively with a central box that doubles for the court of the bey, the bedrooms and any other sets required. Massive blue curtains frame the set. The simplicity allows for the opera to move at a suitably madcap pace. It must be said that this feels a more jaunty rendition that the Abbado recording from 1989. That featured the redoubtable Agnes Baltsa as Isabella - a woman to be messed with at your own peril! I can't claim familiarity with this cast. Vinco makes a fine voiced Mustafa and all are able to keep up with the many leaps and trills of this gloriously silly work.

Directorially the show is an impressive watch. Stage director Servillo keeps his forces well marshalled and the action front and centre. Consequently shooting it proves a fairly easy task and the filmed production makes sense throughout. The only exception to the basic staging is where Haly strays into the audience to deliver an aria. My only concern was that the camera lingered on Mustafa for an long time when the music for Lindoro's showstopping Act 1 aria languir per una bella commences. However, that seems to have been a staging decision as Lindoro only appeared around the corner of the box just before he started singing.

The costuming is grand and impressive .The acting is pretty good and the clever direction sees a lot of the humour come through due to the engaging performances rather than through outrageous mugging. Caoduro is gorgeous in his red finery and excelled throughout which may be why he was, to my ears, given the most rousing applause at the end. I do think though that the decision to use a shirtless male choir throughout probably worked better on stage viewing from a distance instead of in close-up on film.

Algeri is probably more tuneful in the first act than the second and the final set piece relies a bit heavily on an Italian joke but, as a recent critic said of a live performance of the work, "anyone who likes the Marx Brothers" will appreciate the zaniness of the show. Lovers of this opera are starved for choice but will feel well served by this sprightly production.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Algeri is presented in a native 16x9 transfer. It is an NTSC DVD and is marked as being region free.

I presume that the production was shot on high definition digital. Despite the low NTSC resolution this is a pretty good looking disc.

Filming stage shows is notoriously difficult when dealing with stage lighting and a live audience. This DVD features a very stable image with no evidence of colour bleeding and only the merest trace of low level noise. The colours are bright and the face tones or the heavily made-up performers are true to the directors intention.

There are no technical defects with the transfer - no aliasing or compression issues.

The subtitles are large and easy to read. They make pretty good sense apart from the odd spelling error e.g. "unkle".

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

Algeri comes with three sound flavours - LPCM 2.0 running at 1536 Kb/s, Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kb/s and DTS running at 768 Kb/s. All are acceptable.

For those with a DTS decoder this is the best option simply because of the more expansive and crisp sound mix. This is noticeable in the high percussion work - particularly the triangle which really stands out in this mix. Given that this opera like Il Seraglio relies upon some Turkish marching music with oodles or percussion this makes a difference.

Still the surround sound is not really all encompassing and the subwoofer is only engaged in the rousing orchestral sections.

Perhaps the only downfall of this DVD is that which is inevitable in all live opera productions: footsteps, noisy stagehands, the occasional consumptive audience member and slight woofy microphone sounds.

Otherwise audio sync is fine and there are no technical problems with the sound. All in all a good sounding DVD.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There are no extras as such on this DVD. It does come with a booklet containing a breakdown of the plot, details of the chapters (though not the timings) and a short essay on the opera. The words are translated and try as they might the translations are not easy to follow.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

This DVD is the same worldwide.

Summary

L'Italiana in Algeri is a sprightly comic opera that will delight fans of Rossini and put a smile on the face of any opera lover.

Beggars can't be choosers when it comes to buying versions of this opera but viewers can be satisfied that this is a good production.

Some extras such as something about Rossini would have been nice.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, July 21, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Stotijn is a WRONG choice for this role. -