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Rameau: Zoroastre / Rousset, Dahlin, Alexiev [Blu-ray]

Rameau / Dahlin / Bundgaard / Dct / Rousset
Release Date: 10/28/2008 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 7014  
Composer:  Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer:  Evgueniy AlexievAnders J. DahlinAnna Maria PanzarellaSine Bundgaard,   ... 
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Drottningholm Court Theatre OrchestraLes Talens LyriquesDrottningholm Court Theatre Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 3 Hours 47 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

*** This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD or HD DVD players. ***

RAMEAU Zoroastre & Christophe Rousset, cond; Anders J. Dahlin ( Zoroastre ); Evgueniy Alexiev ( Abramane ); Sine Bundgaard ( Amélite
Read more ); Anna Maria Panzarella ( Erinice ); Lars Arvidson ( Zopire/La Vengeance ); Gérard Théruel ( Oromasès/Ariman ); Ditte Andersen ( Céphie ); Les Talens Lyriques; Drottningholm Theatre O & Ch (period instruments) BBC/OPUS ARTE 7014 (Blu-ray Disc: 227:00) Live: Drottningholm 7/19–23/2006

& “Zoroastre: Discovering an Opera”; synopsis and cast gallery

In an hour-long documentary by Olivier Simonnet, “Zoroastre: Discovering an Opera”—a cut above the collection of off-the-cuff interviews one usually gets as an “extra” with an opera video—the point is potently made that the work was truly revolutionary, well ahead of its time. The conductor, stage director, and cast for this production at the historic Drottningholm Theatre honor this truth with a compelling performance that will be of interest even to those who have previously concluded French Baroque opera isn’t for them.

The libretto for the work, by Louis de Cahusac (1706–1759), did not derive from a typical mythological or medieval source. Instead, Zoroastre incorporates Masonic principles into a tale with political ramifications: the ethos here will be familiar to anyone who knows The Magic Flute , composed four decades later. Basically, the plot centers on the power vacuum created by the death of a monarch in an imagined Middle Eastern kingdom. Vying to lead this society in crisis are forces of good and evil, Zoroastre representing the former and Abramane the latter. A complex love relationship is worked into the story as Zoroastre, who is devoted to Amélite, has spurned Erinice, now Abramane’s ally. The two sides have their spiritual guides—Oromasès watches over Zoroastre and Zopire conspires with the Dark Side. The five wonderfully self-contained acts create an absorbing dramatic arch that climaxes in the Black Mass of act IV. Throughout are choral interjections and the dance episodes even casual listeners associate with this repertoire.

Three of the four principals are beyond reproach. Swedish tenor Anders J. Dahlin renders the title role with a fresh, expressive, tonally alluring voice and Sine Bundgaard brings her flexible instrument to Amélite: listen to how easily she negotiates the Handelian divisions of her third act aria, “Sur nos coeurs épuise tes armes.” Dahlin and Bundgaard are exquisite together, as in “Pour la tête la plus belle.” The key character in Zoroastre is the rejected and vindictive Erinice, who eventually comes to understand her toxic motivations and forgive Zoroastre. (I’d love to hear Cecilia Bartoli sing the part.) Anna Maria Panzarella sings the role to perfection. “Quel tourment!” which opens the final act, is a high point of her performance, as Erinice transforms from an icy, vengeful would-be murderer into a sympathetic, flesh-and-blood woman. Only baritone Evgueniy Alexiev, as Abramane, disappoints at all, his lower notes insufficiently robust to allow the malignant darkness of his character to register fully. Singing Amélite’s friend and confidant, Céphie, is Ditte Andersen. She has a lovely, lithe soprano; one only wishes the part were more extensive.

The period-instrument orchestra is quite accomplished. The electrifying violin passages accompanying Abramane’s act III “Osons achever de grands crimes” and the ensemble’s plangent winds—natural horns, wooden flutes, appealing opaque bassoons—are nicely captured in better-than-CD quality sound, both two-channel and surround. Leading the performance is Christophe Rousset, for years William Christie’s assistant and continuo-player, and his stylistic authority and dramatic instincts are never in question. The renowned stage director Pierre Audi took advantage of the functionality of the Drottningholm Theatre’s original stage machinery, which allows 18th-century style scene changes to occur in a matter of a few seconds. Choreographer Amir Hosseinpour, with the outstanding Jennie Lindstrom and the Drottningholm Theatre Dancers at his disposal, incorporates rapid, ritualistic upper extremity movements into the always-welcome dance interludes. The costumes fully evoke the French Baroque era—puffy sleeves for the guys and lots of pushed-up bosoms for the gals. The camerawork and editing is very fluent, with many overhead shots from the files of the old theater contributing to a real sense of occasion, despite the amazingly quiet audience. Opus Arte’s high-resolution Blu-ray picture is gorgeous, revealing all the production’s felicities, even when the lighting on stage is low. The label provides English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian subtitles.

So even if you think that Rameau is for “specialists,” give this outstanding release a try.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Zoroastre: Anders J Dahlin
Abramane: Evgueniy Alexiev
Amélite: Sine Bundgaard
Erinice: Anna Maria Panzarella
Zopire/La Vengeance: Lars Arvidson
Narbanor: Marcus Schwartz
Oromasès/Ariman: Gérard Théruel
Céphie: Ditte Andersen

Region code: 0 (all regions)
Picture: 1080i
Sound: Dolby True HD 5.1 & 2.0 / Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, German
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Works on This Recording

Zoroastre by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer:  Evgueniy Alexiev (Bass), Anders J. Dahlin (Countertenor), Anna Maria Panzarella (Soprano),
Sine Bundgaard (Soprano), Lars Arvidson (Bass)
Conductor:  Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Drottningholm Court Theatre Orchestra,  Les Talens Lyriques,  Drottningholm Court Theatre Chorus
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1732; France 

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