Hopes for a local revival of Les Troyensto help celebrate the Berlioz bicentennial are probably unrealistic in these troubled times. Meanwhile there is a superb performance, from the 2000 Salzburg Festival, produced on two DVD discs on the ArtHaus label distributed by Naxos. Sylvain Cambreling was the conductor, the late Herbert Wernicke was the designer and director, Jon Villars (not to be confused, alas, with Jon Vickers but otherwise excellent) was the Aeneas, and Deborah Polaski sang the roles of Cassandra and Dido. Wernicke's production is stark: Two walls form an angle, with open space in back that suggests the horrors of war and subsequent desolation. The best-of-all news is that the ballets, which form the dreariest aspect of any complete Troyensyou've ever seen (including the one recently at the Met), have been cut. Cut. Gone.
Polaski is a strong, intense singer; Villars is not the ultimate hero, but his work is clean and intelligent. Cambreling, still too little known here (except for a week at the Hollywood Bowl — small change!), leads a finely proportioned performance with special eloquence from the winds and horns of his Orchestre de Paris. The chances of a live-action Troyensbeing what they are hereabouts these days, this new video is a fairer-than-fair facsimile.