Monteverdi flare Vespro della beata vergine (Vespers for the Blessed Virgin) concert performance in 2014 at the Versailles Chapelle Royale. Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Monteverdi Choir and The English Baroque Soloists (orchestra). Olivier Schneebeli conducts the Juvenal Choir of the Versailles Center for Baroque Music. Directed for video by Stéphan Aubé; produced by Frédérick Allain. Combo pack has a DVD and a Blu-ray disc. Released 2015, it appears the Blu-ray was recorded with 48kHz/24-bit sound sampling. The keepcase package has a Dolby Digital logo. But it appears from disc metadata that disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. There are no bonus features or subtitles. But there is an excellent booklet which has the Vespro text in Latin, French, and English. In addition to normal stereo and surround choices, there is also a special sound file for "3D" playback. Grade: A
This is an astonishingly high-quality recording because it's:
- Sir John Eliot Gardiner's last (of 3) recordings of the Monteverdi Vespers
- The first HDVD to be recorded completely in the Chapelle Royal at Versailles
- Our first chance in HDVD to see the Monteverdi Choir in concert
- The first time the English Baroque Soloists Orchestra has recorded in HDVD
- Our best opportunity yet to see ancient instruments in HD
- The first recording you can enjoy in true "Binaural Sound" (if you can figure it out)
- A dual-disc title with a Blu-ray and DVD. Watch both and you'll never watch another DVD
We'll cover all these points in some detail (out of order) as we enjoy some screenshots.
The venue for this concert is the Royal Chapel (Chapelle Royal) at Versailles, seen below in the first picture (a stock photo). It's the church where Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI. I've visited Versailles 3 times, but I've yet to see the Royal Chapel. It's connected to rest of the castle, but I think it's too small to expose to throngs of tourists. You have to take a special guided tour. Now folks like Cecilia Bartoli and Lang Lang can rent the Hall of Mirrors to make a concert recording. But my impression is only sacred music can be performed in the Chapelle Royale:
This is obviously a spectacular place for a concert video. It's also a place creating dramatic sound effects. You can see a balcony above the altar that holds tall organ pipes and runs all around the main floor. For this performance, the orchestra is on the ground floor in front of the altar and the main floor is covered with seats for the audience. From time to time members of the orchestra and the chorus leave the temporary stage to take positions on the balcony and to the sides and to the rear of the audience. Below is a shot with a member of the choir on the balcony opening the work:
Below is the shot above as it appears in the DVD. Can you tell the difference?
Next below is a view with all the singers on stage. It's hard to put into words how beautiful this music is. John Quinn, writing for MusicWeb International, says, "Watching and listening to this performance of the Monteverdi Vespers has been a thrilling experience." The best way I can explain it is this: the pictures you see here are from one of the most beautiful music videos ever made, and the musicians sound even better than they look:
Monteverdi published his Vespro della beata vergine in 1610, the same year Shakespeare wrote The Winter's Tale. Vespro soon fell into obscurity and was rarely performed. 350 years later, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, while attending college, founded the Monteverdi Choir and revived Vespro in a famous concert (performed in 1965). Since then Gardiner has been in the vanguard of the early music movement and also served many orchestras as conductor in most genres of music. He has made hundreds of distinguished recordings including highly-regarded versions of the Vespro. Subject title is Gardener's attempt to republish Vespro della beata vergine one last time using state-of-the-art video and sound to outshine all recordings of this work made before: