Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A modern psychological drama with a HIP sound

This new Blu-ray disc reissue of the production of Handel's opera-oratorio Hercules filmed in the Palais Garnier in 2004 is very much welcome. The HD picture and DTS 5.1 sound are both outstanding, and there is an amazing feeling of presence when you sit down in front of your screen. Most important, of course, is the music and the acting and the production: I loved everything about all of it, nearly unreservedly.

The music Handel wrote for Hercules is amazing. Its beauty is obvious, and in the late Luc Bondy's production, with the modernizing translation/adaptation of playwright Martin Crimp, its psychological depth is apparent as well. Naturally, that only happens with great acting by the principals and chorus (who play a very important role), and fine singing as well. William Christie provides impeccable Historically-Informed Performance credentials for the music, and most importantly keeps the nearly unbroken intense mood on stage from swamping the musical sense Handel brings to this project.

But as good as everyone is in the pit and on the stage, this is Joyce DiDonato's show. A great, great performance!

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