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DVD Review

Hector Berlioz

Les Troyens

  • Didon – Susan Graham
  • Éneé – Gregory Kunde
  • Cassandre/Clio – Anna Caterina Antonacci
  • Anna – Renata Pokupic
  • Chorébe – Ludovic Tézier
  • Pantheé – Nicolas Testé
Monteverdi Choir
Choeur du Théâtre du Châtelet
Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique/John Eliot Gardiner
Stage Direction – Yannis Kokkos
Bonus features: Interviews with Sir John Eliot Gardiner,
Susan Graham, Gregory Kunde, Anna Caterina Antonacci, and others
BBC Opus Arte DVD OA0899D LPCM Stereo; 5.1 DTS Surround 16:9
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanOrder Now from

As I write this notice, reviews on this Les Troyens are still coming in, all so far lavishing it with high praise. I'll add my kudos now, too. In virtually every respect this Opus Arte DVD is a grand success – from the singing, both by the soloists and the chorus, to the conducting of Sir John Eliot Gardiner and playing by his spirited orchestra, to the stage production, including both the sets and costuming, as well as the choreography in the ballet sequences. The film work, captured, you'll notice from the headnote, in High Definition mode, is masterfully done, too.

Susan Graham is a fine Didon, both vocally and dramatically. She seems to effortlessly convey regality in her movements and gestures, and her singing is divine. Anna Caterina Antonacci is also splendid as Cassandre, and one can safely predict a highly successful career for her. But the other principals in the cast are convincing, too: Gregory Kunde as Éneé and Renata Pokupic as Anna in particular stand out. Perhaps the question under review here, however, relates more to the opera's artistic worth than to the performance.

Berlioz was called a 'genius without talent' by Mendelssohn, and while that assessment is clearly harsh, it is not without some merit. Les Troyens, viewed by many as the composer's greatest opera, is a work that can still fuel controversy about Berlioz' artistic standing. Indeed, it is a work about which one might opine, 'a great opera, warts and all'. It is long and unwieldy, beautiful but frustrating at times, and magnificent, if a bit overly ambitious. But then, one might express similar criticism about certain Wagner operas, if I might risk heresy, or about Prokofieff's inspiring and majestic War and Peace. In any work of four hours or more, one is bound to find more than a few details to quibble about.

But Les Troyens holds together very well in this production and should please even the composer's detractors – a good many of them, anyway. In the end then, Berlioz' Les Troyens, extravagant though it may be in some respects, must be judged an artistic success, especially as presented here. Dare one call this DVD definitive? I think so, at least for now. As suggested above, the sound is excellent. Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2005, Robert Cummings