Composers: Ambroise Thomas
Compositions: Hamlet
Performers: Stéphane Degout bar, Sabine Devieilhe s, Laurent Alvaro bar, Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo ms, Orchestre des Champs-Élysées, Les éléments, Louis Langrée cond
Catalogue Number: Naxos 2110640 (DVD)

Hamlet was the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays to be turned into an opera, but until Brett Dean’s finely judged specimen came along, Ambroise Thomas’ tuneful if somewhat surface 1868 effort is the only version to have held the stage. Cyril Teste’s sensitive modern dress Opéra Comique production uses live video projected large on Ramy Fischler’s stylised sets to get to the heart of the matter, thanks to a Hamlet and an Ophelia who thrive in cinematic closeup.

Stéphane Degout’s Hamlet is near ideal, a gifted actor with a clean, resonant baritone to back it up. As Ophélie, Sabine Devieilhe is superb. More than just a coloratura machine, she’s a complex and convincing foil to Degout, while nailing the famous mad scene. Laurent Alvaro’s Claudius is too hollow toned, and while Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo’s rich contralto is perfect for Gertrude, she’s a little old-school in the acting department. Nicolas Legoux as Polonius and Julien Behr as Laërte are spot on with Jérôme Varnier as a wonderfully profundo Ghost.

Louis Langrée directs an admirably subtle reading of Thomas’ charming score, the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées rising to the challenge with excellent support from the Choeur Les Eléments. François Roussillon’s thoughful camerawork for DVD is immaculate as always with recorded sound perfectly balanced. Warmly recommended.

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