I have been a champion of this opera for many years. I always wince when someone calls it a minor effort on Puccini's part. This is one of his most plush and romantic scores, at least I think so. And the story is believable and bittersweet as the two leads end their love affair, wiser but sadder.
The DVD's audio and visual quality is superb. I do not have an HD TV set or a Blue Ray player but my Sony Vega Trinitron bursts into color and clarity from the first moment.
Life seems to imitate art here. When I first saw this performance as an HD simulcast, there were rumors about Gheorghiu and Alagna's marriage falling apart which makes the ending sadder. And there is that little exchange the couple has with hostess Fleming that was embarrassing then as it is now.
Never-the-less, she's in wonderful voice here and sings with the same attention to the text and music she displays on the EMI recording made almost a decade before this performance. When I saw the simulcast, an announcement was made that she was ill but agreed to sing that afternoon. The first aria which is a punishing one at that to sing almost immediately after the first act begins, is a little on the rough side without the ease she usually displays in her upper register. But she does warm up fairly quickly with her voice at full volume over the huge ensemble in the second act. Alagna is showing signs of vocal decline. High notes are challenging here and his tone has lost much of its lovely luster, probably from singing too many heavy roles and never really learning how to sing. He cuts a handsome figure on stage, as always, and is convincing as a naïve young man from the provinces who finds love his first night in Paris. The least said about veteran bass-baritone Samuel Ramey, the better. Although cast in a small role, one could even say a comprimario role, this wonderful artist's time has come to leave the stage.
I love the production although I would have preferred it stage during opera's real period.
The conducting and the choral work are first rate Met. This is an excellent performance despite my reservations about Alagna's vocal problems and the fact that Ramey's voice is extremely well past it's shelf life.