Philippe Jaroussky in 'Alcina': out now on DVD and Blu-Ray
Alcina, one of Handel’s most popular operas, is named after a dangerously seductive sorceress – soprano Patricia Petibon in this production from the 2015 Aix-en-Provence Festival; but perhaps the central figure is the bewitched warrior Ruggiero, performed here by Philippe Jaroussky. The role, which includes the haunting, lilting aria Verdi prati, was composed for the celebrated countertenor Giovanni Carestini, who provided the focus for Jaroussky’s superb 2007 album of arias by Handel, Hasse, Porpora, Leo and Gluck.
Ruggiero, captive on Alcina’s magic island, will be transformed into an animal or inanimate object once the enchantress tires of him, but fortunately his betrothed Bradamante (a mezzo-soprano) comes to save him, disguised as her brother, Ricciardo. Further complications ensue when Alcina’s sister, Morgana, falls in love with ‘Ricciardo’.
The production of Alcina, by the British director Katie Mitchell, was welcomed by The Financial Times as “meticulously executed …, rich in detail, consummately polished”. Like Mitchell’s Aix-en-Provence staging of George Benjamin’s hugely successful Written on Skin (first seen in 2012), it offers simultaneous action in multiple zones of the stage, with Alcina’s elegant boudoir taking pride of place. As The New York Times wrote: “It involves a huge sorcery machine for turning people into animals (or whatever). And Ms. Mitchell works magic of her own onstage, constantly showing the enchantresses Alcina and Morgana alternating between glamorous public personas and their ‘real life’, older, private selves …There are also bits of simulated sex, mingling genders and suggesting, among other things, inventive new ways to hit high notes.”
Describing the whole show as “a night of a thousand delights”, Bachtrack wrote that “Philippe Jaroussky cuts a mighty fine dash as the debonair knight Ruggiero … The French countertenor's yearning mezza voce delivery of Verdi prati is sublime, possibly the evening's vocal highlight, although there is strong competition from Anna Prohaska's Tornami a vagheggiar [Morgana’s spectacular Act 1 closing number] and from Anthony Gregory's [Oronte] physically and vocally energetic È un folle, un vile affetto. Add some bell-clear, sweetly defined contributions from Katarina Bradić [Bradamante] and Krzysztof Baczyk [Melisso] as the gallant rescuers and this Alcina is a feast for the ear.” Le Monde reported that “Patricia Petibon throws herself into the title role; body, voice, soul and more, toying with the limits of style,” while The New York Times found her “little short of sensational vocally … and excellent at eliciting sympathy through her acting.”
The Financial Times praised the Freiburger Barockorchester for playing with “flair, energy and an easy, open sound ... [Conductor] Andrea Marcon lets the phrases breathe, gives a lush continuo section room to unfold, and knows how to drive the pace forward without sounding forced.” Describing Marcon as “exceptional”, Opera News felt that: “Musically, this was a performance of the highest festival level … the continuo and instrumental solos attained a rarely heard level of ensemble with an orchestra honed to perfection.”
Alcina, starring Philippe Jaroussky, Patricia Petibon and Anna Prohaska, is available on DVD and Blu-Ray 3 June 2016.
13 May 2016
Bewitched in bed! VIDEO: Philippe Jaroussky in Alcina on DVD & Blu-Ray
"A night of a thousand delights." -Bachtrack
An all-star cast, provocative stage direction, Philippe Jaroussky's tips on how to survive sexual slavery... Plus the breathtaking aria Verdi prati... Handel's opera Alcina in the daring 2015 production from the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence also stars Patricia Petibon and Anna Prohaska.
Alcina is available on DVD and Blu-Ray early June 2016.
13 December 2014
Dialogues des Carmélites wins the Charles Cros Grand Prix for best classical DVD
The Erato DVD of Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites, in Olivier Py's powerful production from the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées December 2013, has claimed the Académie Charles Cros award in the Best DVD category. The Grands Prix du Disque were presented at Radio France in Paris.
Comprised of 50 music industry critics and professionals and named in honour of Charles Cross, a pioneer of sound recording and a friend of the poets Rimbaud and Verlaine, the Académie was founded in 1947 to support French musicians and recording artists.
The production marked the 50th anniversary last year of Francis Poulenc's death and featured a stellar French cast headed by Patricia Petibon, Véronique Gens, Sophie Koch and Sandrine Piau. Its final scene, as the nuns go one by one to their execution while singing a soaring ‘Salve regina’, is a suspended moment of spine-tingling pathos and power.
The film has been widely praised in France and beyond since its release in November. In a five-star review of the DVD, The Guardian declared that "Poulenc’s opera about religious persecution in dark times has rarely been more devastating...Breathtakingly conducted by Jérémie Rohrer, it boasts one of the finest casts ever assembled for the piece. Patricia Petibon gives the performance of a lifetime as Blanche."
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