This is a rare opportunity to savour the glorious Joan
Sutherland at her peak in a live performance of an opera which she performed
many times all over the world. She is on top form here, and her many
fans will be overjoyed to hear and see their heroine in performance
accompanied by her husband Richard Bonynge in their natural home in
Her standard of singing is at her usual excellence,
and if her co-artists are not at quite the same level of excellence,
there are no absolute weak links in the cast. There are two shortcomings
in this production however and these are the sound and the production.
The sound, by normal DVD standards is well below what we have come to
expect, without being awful. The main problem is excessive background
hiss and this can be tolerated once the production is underway.
What I find difficult to tolerate however, is the staging
of Elijah Moshinsky. Throughout the opera, the sets are so dark that
it is almost like the cast singing against a black background, and illuminated
from above by white spotlights. This is OK occasionally, but to stage
the entire opera in this fashion, smacks of obsession. The problem is
that the squareness of Joan Sutherland’s chin is accentuated and I find
this most off putting.
With the rest of the cast also singing in this black
world, how they kept up their standards of performance I am at a loss
to understand. The recording was made during a run of the opera in 1983
in Sydney. The opera was given as a series of performances between 5th
June and 22nd July, 1983. One performance was broadcast,
and another was issued on video, later to form the basis for the present
Francisco Ortiz had originally been engaged for the
part of Manrico, but was substituted at the last moment by Kenneth Collins.
One would never realise from this DVD that we are watching a last minute
substitution, as Kenneth Collins gives a very assured performance in
this key role.
Also, apparently, the programmes were printed in white
text on a black background – such was the obsession of those in power.
What we poor mortals have to endure in the name of art!
This is one time when I would rather listen to a CD
performance of this opera than watch the DVD. This is unfortunate, as
there are few enough examples of Joan Sutherland’s artistry on commercially