In principle, I'm all for the approach and the use of new technology that the experimental Catalan theatre group la Fura dels Baus bring to opera productions. In practice however, I can never get past the dumb ideas that they sometimes base their concepts upon. Although I have avoided it myself, a lot of people like their Valencia Ring cycle, and I can see how their approach to total music theatre would work with Wagner - much as it suits, in principle, the dramatic theatricality of Hector Berlioz (they've done La Damnation De Faust in the past). In practice however, I'm afraid their production of Les Troyens just doesn't work for me.
Seriously. What genius (that would be Carlus Padrissa) though it would be a great idea to take the metaphor of the Trojan Horse virus back to its source and make it literal? The phrase, "Beware of Greeks or other outside hostile agencies bearing gifts of laptops carrying viruses that may compromise the integrity of your system", doesn't really have all that great a ring to it. Even if you were to find this feeble concept worthy of more than a minute's consideration, there's little to support it in this staging, which is an impressive spectacle certainly (you are always guaranteed that at least from la Fura dels Baus), but it's also a complete hotchpotch of ideas and concepts that look a complete mess and don't come across particularly well on video. Some of the scenes mixing projections and live action, hanging singers and acrobats from cables, are impressive, enhancing the nightmarish visions of Cassandra and representing the death of Laco'on well in the first half, but really, does this bring anything meaningful out of the work, or is it just half-baked concepts and Cirque du Soleil spectacle?
Conducted by Valery Gergiev, the Valencia production at least remains hugely entertaining from a musical viewpoint, although I wouldn't put it above the John Eliot Gardner version. The singing is mostly of a good standard, particularly the two female leads Elisabete Martos (Cassandra) and Daniela Barcellona (Dido), but again, personally, I prefer the performances of Anna Caterina Antonacci and Susan Graham in the Châtelet production. Gregory Kunde is however certainly a better Aeneas than Lance Ryan here, who I thought delivered everything in a dreary declamatory fashion and in a tone that becomes unpleasantly nasal on the high notes. His poor diction moreover painfully murders the French libretto.
The quality of the Blu-ray itself - the entire opera on a single BD50 disc - is reasonably good, the image as clear as it can be on a dark stage that uses a lot of back and front-screen projections. The audio tracks - PCM stereo and DTS 5.1 HD master audio - are both fine, if there is little to choose between them. Overall, if you don't think too much about the terrible concept and are able to simply just enjoy the spectacle of the staging, this isn't a bad version of Les Troyens, and it's certainly well performed - but there is a much better version out there already on Blu-ray in terms of production values, spectacle and overall quality of the performance.