When multi-take studio-made recordings began regularly appearing, critics generally evaluated them differently than they did concert performances. They were expected to be more note-perfect and better-executed, even if they lacked the electric charge of a live concert. DVD issues, at least those of operas and ballets, must now also be treated differently. They are usually derived from a live performance, or from several live performances. Because they involve, like any stage production, the visual aspect, they convey a sense of both the live and the recorded. It is with this view in mind that one must approach DVD opera productions. In other words, reviewers will find it difficult to compare performances on DVD with those on CD or with a live performance. All are different venues having somewhat different standards.
That said, this recoding should satisfy most fans of this opera, even if they play it and, for some reason, don't watch it on their TV or computer monitor. It is, by my count the eighth recording of this work, the first going back to a 1929 issue, featuring Germaine Féraldy and Joseph Rogatchewsky in the leads. Thus, this is not a particularly popular opera, but it has been far from neglected. Those unfamiliar with it will find it a fine work, deserving greater exposure.
This Lopez-Cobos-led effort is a quite excellent representation of the opera. Renée Fleming is in fine form, even if at time she pours on a bit too much charm in her acting. Her voice and musical sense, however, cannot be faulted, only praised. She recently scored a great success in another Massenet opera, Thaïs, on a Decca release. Marcelo Álvarez also turns in a fine performance, and the venerable Michel Sénéchal is brilliant in the role of Guillot.
Lopez-Cobos leads with an incisive baton and the orchestra and chorus respond with spirit. The sound is excellent and the overall production, under the direction of Hugues R. Gall, is among the most colorful I've encountered on DVD yet. Opera mavens, fans of Fleming and Álvarez, and Massenet admirers will surely want this recording.
Copyright © 2003, Robert Cummings