MedeaLuigi Cherubini - Medea

Sassari Italy, 2004 | Orchestra dell’Ente Concerti, Eric Hull, Giuseppe Sollazzo, Denia Mazzola Gavazzeni, Carlo Cigni, Elisabetta Scano, Cesare Ruta, Chiara Chialli | Kikko Classic

Adaptations of classical Greek mythology are common in opera, particularly Baroque and opera seria, and it’s perhaps for this reason that opera traditionally deals with highly dramatic subjects revolving around the twin passions of love and revenge. With perhaps the exception of Carmen, they don’t come much more impassioned than Luigi Cherubini’s version of the Euripides drama Medea.

More than the actual drama - it’s not a particularly complicated storyline and not a great deal happens - much of the passion is embodied within the character of Medea herself, the sorceress arriving at Colchis to stop the marriage of Jason to Glauce. Turning up on their wedding day, Medea threatens all manner of vengeance should Jason break the vows he has made, under enchantment, to her. Made famous by Maria Callas, which probably accounts for it being the only real Cherubini opera in repertoire, Medea is a role that calls out for a big performance and it does indeed get that here in the figure of Denia Mazzola Gavazzeni.

Recorded in Sassari in 2004 in the revised Italian version of the opera, this is a reasonably good production, traditionally staged, costumed and performed - a solid production that suits the opera and plays to its strengths. The orchestration and singing are both fine, but unfortunately neither are really shown to their best in the rather poor sound reproduction on this DVD release from Kikko Classic in Italy. A live recording, presumably made for television, the sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, but I’m not even sure it’s in stereo, or if it is, there’s not much L-R separation. It might as well be mono, and the mixing accordingly isn’t great, the orchestra mostly drowning out the singing.

The video quality is also lacking. In 4:3, it looks like a TV video master, and is certainly not shot in HD. Grain and blockiness can be seen in the dark backgrounds, there is faint discolouration with exposure varying between cameras. There are even one or two buzz glitches that momentarily affect both image and sound. The biggest problem with the filming is the editing, which makes use of different performances from different nights often within the same scene, the frequent intercutting leading to obvious continuity issues. Even more problematically, this causes the lip-movements to rarely match the singing or the performance.

Most of these issues are relatively minor and wouldn’t individually spoil the enjoyment of what is a fine opera and a good performance of it, but cumulatively, they can be quite niggling and distracting.