This is too brief to be called a review, and I intend to come back with something more substantial. But for the moment.
We are in a period where directors far too often want to modernize the setting; sometimes it works, other times it is terrible misjudgement. Then there are productions geared to display a star performer. And so often producers/directors forget that if the composer wrote a work in the form of an opera, it was intended to be seen, so the acting, both visual and through the singing, is an important part of the production. This has, in the past, not always been given its due.
Well in this production, none of these failings are present. First, let me say, a composer wrote his opera for the stage, and that is where it should be performed. This production boasts a cast of uniform excellence, where the beautiful singing of Verdi's great score rates among the very best. But the performers, soloists and chorus have been directed to fully bring out the dramatic aspects as well, i.e., to act as well as sing. Musically, both chorus and orchestra are in top form, under a conductor who has a full grasp of the total perspective of the score, both musically and dramatically.
Sets and costumes cannot be faulted, and all is enhanced by excellent lighting design. All of this gushing is due to the fact that it is rare to find all the elements of an opera production at such a uniformly high standard and unified so that not one thing stands out and hits you as "not quite right", and nothing emerges above the totality to warrant special praise. There are operas I have reviewed with enthusiasm, but few have created the impression this performance gives (and it isn't even one of my favorite Verdi operas).
The icing on the cake has been expressed in most of the reviews. If ever you wanted a demonstration disc for your Blu-ray, this is it. Most people are unaware that Blu-ray does not necessarily equate with stunning quality, and there have been Blu-ray releases that were little better than DVD, although this seems to have been a passing phase. But in this release we have Blu-ray at its best: unsurpassed clarity, the greater depth and subtlety of color that is another of the advantages of the format, and sound quality that is an audiophile's dream - and what better production on which to lavish these high standards.
Please forgive my gushing, but this is a near-perfect release . Watching and listening to it was literally a revelation, and provides a "you are there" experiience if viewed via a good projector on a 100" screen with sound facilities that can do justice to what is on the disc.
In my planned rewrite, I promise to try and stand back and review this much less emotively.