Notes and Editorial Reviews
• Optional subtitles: English, French, Italian, Spanish and German
• Menu screens in English and French
• Booklet with cast list, synopsis and tracking information
• 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound
• Area code: ALL
• Bonus: Backstage: approx 7’; Pagliacci’s Preview; Catalog R. Alagna
R E V I E W S
In a previous issue of Fanfare, I wrote an article about Franco Alfano suggesting that his music was unfairly neglected. It was the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Cyrano de Bergerac with Placido Domingo that ignited my curiosity and sparked a thorough exploration of Alfano’s music. The more I heard of it, the more highly I regarded it. Alfano is most well known, unfortunately, for his
completion of Puccini’s Turandot, a thankless task if ever there was one.
There does seem to be a growing interest in Alfano’s operas, and on top of two audio recordings of Cyrano, we now have this DVD—and it is without question the finest version yet. Alagna’s voice doesn’t have that dark richness that Domingo brought to the role in his astonishing Met performance, but he is in a league beyond the two tenors who have left broadcast recordings of the opera—William Johns (Gala) and Roman Sadnik (cpo). Johns is the better of those two, but Alagna brings a liquid beauty of tone that is simply not at Johns’s disposal. Alagna also sings here with passion, variety of dynamics and colors, and utter freedom. He clearly enjoys this role and throws himself into it. At times, his voice sounds like it might be one-half size too small for the role, but those moments are infrequent.
His Roxane, Nathalie Manfrino, is a delightful and attractive lyric soprano who can float a lovely piano and can open up full throttle without turning harsh. The rest of this cast clearly believes in the opera and is fully engaged dramatically as well as being more than adequate vocally.
If I have any musical reservations, they center on conductor Marco Guidarini. He lets the impetus go slack at many key points, and he indulges the singers and the music’s lyricism excessively, at the expense of tautness and forward motion. Still, the music’s beauty comes through, and the orchestra plays very well. The recorded sound is quite natural. This was recorded at the Festival de Radio France et Montpelier in July of 2003, and although there is applause at the end (after a very long pause), one feels that it may have been recorded without the presence of an audience—because there is no audience distraction at all.
The stage direction and lighting are by Alagna’s brothers David and Frédérico, and from a television perspective, their work is very convincing. It looks like it worked in the house too. It is a naturalistic production, and it is easy to become involved with the characters here without feeling jerked around by some director’s “concept.” George Blume’s camera direction is particularly admirable. Unlike many directors, he seems to have the patience to linger on shots and let the music and the production speak for themselves. This is one of the most natural and un-intrusive operatic videos I have seen in a long time.
It is not, however, without some flaws. The worst is the translation for the English subtitles. They are clumsy, ungrammatical at times, and occasionally laughable. At no point does the translation just let you go along for the ride—it is bad enough that it always calls attention to itself. In addition, Seven Stars provides no notes with this package except for a very cursory plot synopsis. Nonetheless, I recommend this DVD with real enthusiasm.
Henry Fogel, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Cyrano de Bergerac by Franco Alfano
Nathalie Manfrino (Soprano),
Marc Barrard (Baritone),
Roberto Alagna (Tenor),
Nicolas Rivenq (Baritone),
Franck Ferrari (Baritone),
Richard Rittelmann (Baritone),
Richard Troxell (Tenor),
Hannah Schaer (Alto)
Montpellier National Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1933-1935; Italy
Venue: Opéra National de Montpelier
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