DVD Review: Deep artistry trumps vocal shimmer in Edita Gruberova's stunning Lucrezia Borgia
There was no room in today's Star for an opera DVD review, so here it is:
**** (out of 4) (Medici Arts)
Four stars for a production of a bel canto opera featuring a 60-year-old singer? Am I crazy?
If there was ever an example of age and experience trumping youth and beauty, here it is, in the person of the great Slovak soprano Edita Gruberova. Her voice has lost its shimmer, but she quickly makes us completely forget that fact.
This a thoroughly gripping production of Gaetano Donizetti’s 1833 melodrama featuring legendary aristocratic poisoner Lucrezia Borgia confronting her deepest maternal instincts when her long-lost son Gennaro shows up at the door.
In true operatic fashion, the encounter quickly becomes tangled in deceit and misunderstanding. Lucrezia’s husband thinks she is having an affair with the young man. The mother is not sure how to acknowledge the son. In the end, he is poisoned by the hand that gave him birth.
The title role is dramatically meaty and vocally daunting. Gruberova marshalls every tool in her massive artistic arsenal to sing and portray Lucrezia in her full glory and pathos in Christof Loy’s elegantly straightforward, modern-dress production by the Bavarian State Opera, recorded last summer in Munich.
The rest of the cast, including Pavo Breslik as Gennaro, does an excellent job. Conductor Bertrand de Billy teases every emotional nuance out of the rich score. The Bavarian State Orchestra is excellent.
There is a companion DVD featuring a 55-minute documentary called The Art of Bel Canto, which is really a profile of Gruberova. It is very nicely done, contrasting her public and private lives with a lot of finesse.
“I’m beginning to wonder if I should still be singing an 18-year-old Lucia?” asks the now-63-year-old Gruberova, at one point. The answer is that opera companies are still asking her to sing. This production of Lucrezia Borgia shows us why.
For full album details, click on the DVD image, above.
Here is "Com'è bello! Quale incanto" from the Prologue. (If you're interested in the companion documentary, much of it can be pieced together with YouTube clips):