This opera seria by Rossini has, by far, the most beautiful music of any opera I have heard- yes, even more than Mozart and Verdi! I have had a CD of this performance for several years (shipped over from England by my in-laws as it hasn't been vailable in America) and have adored the incredible music that Rossini created. There is one great tune after another, and the orchestration is also superb. Unfortunately, this opera is generally not available in any store (I have scoured many Tower records stores, etc and couldn't find it.) Now I see that Amazon.com is carrying an inexpensive CD set of this opera (different production.) More on that later.
This performance, from La Scala, in Milan in 1992, fully captures the gorgeous music. I emphasize this, because any bel canto opera lover really should hear this music. The singing performances are excellent. June Anderson is terrific as Elena and the rest of the cast is also very strong. And Riccardo Muti does a superb job as conductor. Music-wise this is 5 stars all the way.
But the production- that's a different story.
The first, and probably fundamental problem, is the opera itself. The story is weak (three men love Elena during a war in the Scottish Highlands). The libretto is terrible- there is one extended scene towards the end of Act One that is completely incomprehensible. After several viewings and reading the script, my wife and I till can't figure it out.
And that's probably why this opera is almost never staged. In 5 years of following this closely, I have yet to see a single performance anywhere according to advertisements and listings. This is the only extant production, and it has serious flaws.
Even though the libretto is weak (with virtually no action), the staging in this production was totally static. No one moved or did anything. They just stood and sang (beautifully). The filming was even worse. Just about the entire show was shot at medium or long range- almost no closeups at all. It's like they stuck a couple of cameras at the back of the theater and let them run, with a little closeup here and there. The sound is not 5.1, but is very good, with good stereo separation (especially if you listen in stereo and not Dolby Surround.) When sngers cross from side to side (very rare as they hardly move) the sound moves with them.
So do I reccomend this DVD? I can't even though I love the music. Instead, get the 2 CD set from Amazon (very cheap) and revel in the music. If you really prefer DVD's, then, you will love this musical production, just with the television off.