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Image Entertainment presents
Il Trovatore (The Australian Opera) (1983)

"He foolishly declared his love and he must die. Your confession sentenced him to death."
- Count di Luna (Jonathan Summers)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 04, 2002

Stars: Donald Shanks, Joan Sutherland, Jonathan Summers, Kenneth Collins, Lauris Elms
Other Stars: Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra, Richard Bonynge, conductor
Director: Elijah Moshinsky

Manufacturer: Ritek Digital Video
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (thematic material)
Run Time: 02h:21m:36s
Release Date: August 27, 2002
UPC: 014381931020
Genre: opera

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Giuseppe Verdi followed the success of his first great opera, Rigoletto with this adaptation from a story by Antonio Garcia Gutierrez about 15th century Spain. Although the story from its synopsis might seem a bit silly, this performance under the baton of Richard Bonynge successfully brings the opera to life with its fiery passions erupting throughout.

As in all good opera, the center of the story is a love triangle: Count di Luna (Jonathan Summers) and the Gypsy troubador Manrico (Kenneth Collins) both love Leonora (Joan Sutherland), lady in waiting to the Queen of Aragon. Leonora loves Manrico, but unfortunately he is on the opposite side of the civil war. Unbeknownst to them, Manrico is really the brother of the Count, having been stolen in revenge by Azucena (Lauris Elms) and raised as her own after the Count's father had her mother burned at the stake. When a Gypsy curse is involved in grand opera, tragic consequences for all concerned are sure to follow.

Although the music is of course excellent, the opera suffers a bit in its structure, especially for viewers used to cinema. Most of the action occurs offstage, and the characters come forward to tell us what happened, violating the dictum that one should show rather than to tell. However, this tends to be a fault of the stage limitations of 19th century rather than of this production in particular.

Sutherland is of course the highlight of the production, and she acquits herself admirably. The high notes of the difficult range of Leonora are effortless and confident. But the real stunner here is Elms as the slightly mad Gypsy; she not only conveys desire for vengeance combined with maternal love, but she does so with a wild look in her eye that makes her seem capable of anything. Reinforcing this startling performance is a minimalist physical interpretation; Elms hardly moves during the opera, but she is always compelling through sheer power of her voice and her expressive face. The one drawback to her performance is a little weakness when she is required to plumb the depths of the female voice, but is otherwise excellent.

The male leads are serviceable for the most part. The opera chorus is somewhat uneven, with the male chorus coming off somewhat better than the women. The opening chorus in which the woeful tale of the theft of the Count's brother is recounted is supported with a vigorous outing from the chorus that impels the production forward and immediately grabs the viewer's attention. However, the famous (or infamous) Anvil Chorus that opens Act II seems lackadaisical, with the women in particular seeming quite uninterested in the proceedings, which hardly seems possible given the energy of the music.

The staging is interesting; this would have made a good candidate for widescreen presentation because the cast often uses the entire width of the stage. Each scene is introduced by an iconic representation of its thematic material, and these visuals often reappear during the scene, sometimes in double exposure with the vocalists. Though I didn't always quite grasp the meaning of the icons, this did help keep visual interest.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This shot-on-video live production suffers from the usual flaws of such an endeavor: mediocre black levels and a lack of fine detail. In addition, the color here is quite unstable and the picture jumps visibly on a number of occasions. They aren't frequent enough to be a serious objection, but they are a minor irritant to the eye. Reds tend to be a bit on the oversaturated side as well. Shadow detail is completely lacking.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Italianyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Italian vocal score is presented in both DD 5.1 and Dolby Surround. The differences are not substantial, however, once one corrects for the higher output level of the 5.1 track. It does have a slightly wider soundstage, with decent definition and directionality; the anvils come from alternating speakers lending an entertaining aspect to an old warhorse. The sound is rather hissy, and occasionally vocalists are muffled as the move around, no doubt due to improper miking. As is frequent on opera DVDs, the applause is mixed far too loud, which will cause most viewers to dash for the remote whenever an act ends lest they be deafened. Please, not so much.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 42 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 40 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: EastPack
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:13m:53s

Extras Review: Other than removable English subtitles, there are no extras. Chaptering is excellent, with a stop for every number instead of every scene as we find too often on operatic DVDs. While the layer change is properly stuck between acts, it very nearly steps on the opening of the third act. The change really should have been a few seconds earlier, at the fade to black.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A fine staging of one of the great operas, with a knockout supporting performance by Lauris Elms. The transfer gets the job done but isn't outstanding, and no extras are to be found. Still, the chaptering is better than usual.


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