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Image Entertainment presents
Orpheus in the Underworld (1997)

"I am leaving the house, because I am dead."
- Eurydice (Elizabeth Vidal)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: November 14, 2002

Stars: Alexandru Badea, Elizabeth Vidal, Dale Duesing, Renaldo Macias, André Jung, Désirée Meiser, Jacqueline Van Quaille, Michele Patzakis
Other Stars: Marie-Noëlle de Callata˙, Sonja Theodoridou, Laurence Misonne, Franck Cassard, Thomas Stacie, Sylvia Printemps, Caroline Cornelis, Pascale Mouteau
Director: Dirk Gryspeirt

Manufacturer: Ritek Digital Video
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, adult themes, mild violence)
Run Time: 01h:59m:25s
Release Date: July 16, 2002
UPC: 014381930528
Genre: opera

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-B+A- D-

DVD Review

All too many people think of opera as something deadly serious, a long-droning and depressing affair with obese horned women bemoaning their tragic fates. While there's plenty of that to be found if you want it, there's also frothy, purely enjoyable comedy to be had as well. Few composers did this genre quite as well as Jacques Offenbach, and one of his best-loved works (technically an operetta) comes to amusing life here.

Based on Greek myth, the operetta features Eurydice (Elizabeth Vidal), who has grown tired of husband Orpheus (Alexandru Badea) and is carrying on with shepherd Aristeus (Renaldo Macias). What she doesn't know is that Aristeus is really Pluto, lord of the underworld. When he makes off with Eurydice, Orpheus, aided by Public Opinion (Désirée Meiser), beseeches Jupiter (Dale Duesing) to come to his aid. The king of the gods does so, with all the other gods of Olympus in tow, in an effort to bring justice to Orpheus (and randy fellow that he is, to attempt to seduce Eurydice himself).

This production by the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels really lets out the stops; in the tradition of modern effects extravaganzas such as Les Miserable and Miss Saigon, this version features a showstopping gimmick of its own, a steam locomotive that crashes through the ceiling to mark the transition to the underworld. Not exactly called for in the libretto, but it's well done and certainly astonishing. The show also makes full use of the stage, especially during the Olympus sequences, where large, elaborate tableaux of the characters are visible and Mercury (Franck Cassard) dangles up at the rafters.

Musically, the performance is quite accomplished, with the symphony orchestra associated with the theater, under the baton of Patrick Davin, giving an energetic reading of the score, particularly of the famous Can Can near the end. This is shamelessly repeated in encore twice during the curtain calls (lasting nearly six minutes!), but it's enjoyable enough to overlook the milking of this old favorite. Elizabeth Vidal is a little overmatched by the vocal requirements of Eurydice, but she manages to hit some astonishingly high notes right on the money too. Poor Franck Cassard as Mercury in his wire harness is gasping for breath during his rapid-fire solo, but that's not his fault so much as that of the production designer; his main support should have been at the hips, not the chest, to allow him to sing properly.

Comic opera today often manages to fall flat, but this outing actually manages to be quite humorous in a broad manner. Particularly enjoyable is the womanizing Jupiter portrayed by Dale Duesing, who has plenty of amusing business and also plays his role with a gleeful gusto that's infectious. The egomaniacal Orpheus is also entertaining, though his part is surprisingly small, as is Macias as the greedy and cowardly Pluto. The modern dress used also is worked for some laughs, such as with Pluto, first seen in a tux with wraparound shades and saddle shoes.

I'd recommend this disc heartily to any fan of musicals who is thinking that an opera might be interesting to check out.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture is generally quite good. It suffers, as usual, in being a live performance, but the black levels are better than average. Detail is reasonably good, as is texture, though shadow detail often gets lost in the darkness, which has a rather greenish tinge. The beginning of Act I, Scene 2 is far too dark and lacking in substantial detail at calibrated levels, knocking the transfer grade down a bit. Despite being on a single layer disc, though, I didn't observe any significant compression issues.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 French score has very good stereo separation, with a broad soundstage and excellent depth and richness of sound. There is only minor crowd noise present, which is a pleasure. Diction comes through cleanly and there is good bass presence as well. There's really no complaint here at all.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: EastPack
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Well, there are removable English subtitles, and there is an insert listing the musical numbers (something that should be present on opera discs as a matter of course, but all too frequently is omitted in some bizarre cost savings move). But that's about it. The subs do stay up for the duration of the musical line, which I applaud.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Offenbach is done up in grand style and with hugely entertaining performances. The transfer is passably good, and the sound is excellent, but don't be looking for any extras.


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