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Thread: Operas by Handel on DVD, Blu-ray, and CD

          
   
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  1. #31
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Handel: Partenope on DVD



    This was recorded live at the Royal Danish Opera, Copenhagen, in October of 2008.
    Lars Ulrik Mortensen conducts the Concerto Copenhagen.

    Inger Dam-Jensen is Partenope.
    Andreas Scholl is Arsace
    Christophe Dumaux is Armindo
    Tuva Semmingsen is Rosmira (a.k.a. cross-dressing Eurimene)
    Bo Kristian Jensen is Emilio
    Palle Knudsen is Ormonte

    Technically speaking this is a good product from DECCA, region zero, filmed in HD, with 16:9 anamorphic widescreen, LPCM and DTS 5.0 tracks (one laments that the subwoofer is not fully activated - but the surround effects are good, and sometimes when the singing comes from a corner of the stage it only comes from that side of the surround speakers and the effects are pleasant - oh well, I'm inaugurating my new higher-end set-up - not the highest end but a significant improvement over my old one - with this DVD and I'm very pleased with the sound). Good image definition and colors (although the staging doesn't take advantage of it). There are optional subtitles in numerous languages and a bonus feature (documentary of the rehearsals, 17 minutes-long). The opera running time is 187 minutes.

    The Pros:

    Exquisite singing by all principals, some better than others (particularly Andreas Scholl, Inger Dam-Jensen and Bo Kristian Jensen) but even the slightly - and I do mean slightly - less good ones (Christophe Dumaux, Tuva Semmingsen) do an excellent job.

    Inger Dam-Jensen has good stage presence and is a good match for the role of the proud, powerful and sexy queen - she is an impressive lady although not a beauty.

    There is some eye candy for the ladies who like gents or gents who like gents, but not so for gents who like ladies (my case) or ladies who like ladies, in spite of the suggestive cover picture (which is misleading).

    HIP in period instruments.

    The Cons:

    They are numerous, in my opinion.

    Unattractive staging with dark scenarios and even darker lighting.

    Overacting by many principals - yes, I understand that opera often includes overacting in order to reach the back of the theater but with the frequent close-ups of this camera direction it gets really distracting. And then, with the misguided attempts at humor (see below) the singers seem to be always indecisive between portraying the true complex feelings that the libretto calls for, and making a joke of it all which results in very uneven acting. This is stage direction gone wrong, folks. I don't mind at all updated stagings (this one is done with modern clothing and modern props) but it's gotta be well done. This one is not. It is not Eurotrash. There are no excesses. It's rather a question of guiding the acting into a coherent whole which definitely does not happen here.

    It's the kind of product that would be better enjoyed with the TV monitor off, a good candidate for our project of good musical aspects of a DVD (except that I'm less than thrilled with the orchestra so I wouldn't include it there - I mean, the orchestra for me doesn't stand out as a strong positive for this performance as much as some efforts by, say, The English Baroque Soloists or Les Arts Florissants can be). I'm not an authority in orchestras, and maybe someone will say that this Concerto Copenhagen is very good. Maybe I'm just being influenced by the reputation of some other ensembles, but I do think I've approached this performance with an open mind and just wasn't awed like I've been when listening to an opera by some of the other baroque orchestras, when I can't stop dropping my jaw and saying "oh wow!" to myself about the instrumental playing. This awed feeling just isn't there for me, regarding this orchestra. Another way to say this is that conducting and playing in this production, while very good, like brilliance. I'd like to hear the opinion on this from people who know these things better than I do, like emiellucifuge. I'd be willing to reassess my understanding of this orchestra's playing if I'm flat wrong about this, but I repeat, there seems to be something missing for me.

    Slapstick kind of humor that falls flat and is detrimental to the enjoyment of this rather dramatic work - case in point the battle scenes which in my humble opinion tried to be clever and ended up being ridiculous. The public seems to have loved it since they can't stop applauding at all little "clever" tricks, which is in itself distracting, I'd like to shout "shut up" when they applaud *during* the singing/playing just because the direction came up with something "clever" like a singer entering the stage by sliding down a rope. Yeah, big deal. Can we listen to the music, please??? Not to say that the laughing at the lame slapstick acting is also distracting since it happens during the singing. I don't know what is wrong with this public. Do they want to watch a comedy? Go to the movies, then, there are plenty of silly Hollywood comedies playing in multiplexes. Do they want to watch dramatic 17th/18th century opera? Then listen to the opera, dammit!!!

    Too much stage noise. One would want the sound engineer to have generated some noise cancelling waves to compensate for those, before releasing the final product.

    Abuse of close-ups and too many camera cuts that get to be shaky and dizzying. Some of the camera work (fortunately not a lot) is done with handheld cameras. Damn, this trend that spoils so many films is getting into opera as well??? I mean, I like the old efforts started by Lars von Trier and his pals, but the craze of action films with handheld cameras became very annoying and I'd hate to see it penetrate the world of opera as well.

    The opera itself:

    The libretto is one of the most convoluted ever set to music by Handel, and we know how some Handel operas have a knack for convoluted libretti (while some others - the ones I tend to like more, like the recent - for me - example of Hercules have more clarity and directness). This one overdoes it. There are so many plot twists and so much ambivalence and changes of mind and multiple shifting love allegiances that at one point it all becomes a turn-offish mess, to the point that one thinks - "oh, whatever, let me just listen to the music."

    Musically of course the opera is very satisfactory. I'm still to find a work by Handel that I don't like musically. The man was a genius.

    So, what is the verdict? It's a tough one. I guess I'd say recommended, given the excellent singing across the board and the formidable performance from Inger and Andreas (the latter is a singer who can't go wrong, he's consistently excellent in everything that he does), plus the good technical quality of the product. So, just the pleasure of listening to and watching two gifted singers/actors in the two main roles justify the buy. But certainly I've seen better in terms of camera work and updated stagings of Handel's operas.

    Oh, I forgot to mention the culprits for the weak stage direction and the weak direction for TV: respectively Francesco Negrin and Uffe Borgwardt - so that others who think like me avoid their future works (although obviously there are some who love what they do, given the wild applause from the public - If I were there, it would be hard for me to restrain from booing the stage director - I never do this, but I'd be tempted).
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); August 25th, 2012 at 08:13 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  3. #32
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Alcina



    Inspired by the joys of Handel and recommendations from another forum, I bought this Alcina. Well, I watched it, but I have mixed feelings. Alice Coote was wonderful, a beautiful rich mezzo voice and full of yearning, but the rest of the cast was not vocally up to her standards, although Catherine Naglestad in the title role bought a depth of characterisation to Alcina which was very moving. I actually couldn't bear to listen to Catriona Smith in the role of Alcina's sister Morgana. All the on-stage fondling was also a little distracting (although I can see that it was part of the story, which focuses very much on erotic befuddlement). However the set looked like the dining-room of a 1950s Bournemouth boarding-house - sadly completely lacking in magic.
    Natalie

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Rodelinda



    This production, conducted by William Christie, is puzzlingly set in the silent movie era, pancake make-up (the guys all had red lipstick, or had they been dipping into the Glyndebourne strawberries?) and glam dresses, with very stylised movements (presumably designed to echo the sorts of movements that would have been seen on an 18th Century stage).

    Antonacci was a very strong and moving Rodelinda although on first listening I found her vibrato a bit off-putting. Scholl warmed up nicely after a rather bland start. He has got a gorgeous voice, hasn't he? I kept getting a bit put off by Eduige who is supposed to be a contender in the “who is going to get married to whom” stakes but had been given an outfit and wig that made her look like the Queen Mum.
    Natalie

  5. #34
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Hercules



    This production of Hercules, sung in English, again has William Christie conducting. The story is a lot simpler than most Handel operas – wife gets jealous when husband returns from wars with delectable blonde prisoner in tow, wife goes mad, kills husband, dies, blonde and son get together, everyone sings happy happy (actually I made that last bit up based on previous experience, I haven’t finished watching yet.) So far it’s great, all the singers are vey good (Shimmel a bit gravelly but OK) but Joyce DiDonato as the jealous Dejanira is AWESOME, absolutely heartbreaking. Eat your heart out Othello, this is what going mad with jealousy really looks like. The production is done in modern dress which isn’t too intrusive, except I’m wondering why they put the captive princess Iole in a nightie and combat jacket. And couldn’t the Opéra budget have run to shoes for her?

    EDIT

    Finished watching this. It's definitely the number two Handel DVD for me (after the Glyndebourne Giulio Cesare). Much darker of course. Could be renamed "One wedding, an accidental poisoning and a spectacular descent into madness".

    The choral work is especially impressive and beautiful, and the chorus got the biggest cheer of the evening. DiDonato keeps the intensity up, (doesn't die actually, just sits madly in a corner) and the ending is bitter sweet. Highly recommended
    Last edited by Soave_Fanciulla; January 3rd, 2012 at 07:02 AM.
    Natalie

  6. #35
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Theodora



    On one hand I found it deeply moving - Upshaw, Croft, Hunt, Daniels really inhabited their courageous, tender, self-sacrificing characters thoroughly and sang their parts convincingly and beautifully. I was in two minds about the production. I don't mind the updating, and in a sense I could see the point of the opposing the venal pleasure seeking pagans, clutching their soft drinks, against the "pure" Christians. But as usual with Sellars there was too much "gritty" business which got distracting (ever seen his heroin-injecting Big-Mac-scoffing Don Giovanni?). I didn't think we really need death by lethal injection in the middle of gorgeous farewell arias!
    Natalie

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Tamerlano



    The star attraction is, of course, Domingo. Well, I love him to bits, but I have to say the voice is a bit raspy and not at all Handelian, not enough flexibility really, and too verismo. That said, he was a very convincing Bajazet, full of outraged ire and fatherly concern, and his death scene was a riproarer, especially his tender farewell to his daughter.

    Monica Bacelli as the psychopathic potentate Tamerlano was wonderfully convicing and even funny, parading around like a mercurial peacock in a series of ever more bejewelled and colourful outfits - a bit the sultan of the harem meets the Red Queen. "Off with his head!"

    The rest of the cast sang well and were affecting, particularly the star crossed lovers played by Sarah Mingardo and the stunning Ingela Bohun.

    The production was clean and fairly minimal, with some striking aspects - the arrival of Tamerlano's spurned fiancee on a giant blue elephant, Bazajet's death scene that had him gradually moving back and fading into a large black tunnel. The costumes, a kind of generic 18th century oriental look, were utterly gorgeous, particularly the two princes. There was nothing in the production that outraged or puzzled me, a nice change for modern Handel productions.
    Natalie

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  9. #37
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Theodora

    An alternative to the controversial Peter Sellars Theodora is this newer version



    with less distracting business – in fact this is really semi-staged, the props consisting mainly of chairs, the costumes simply evening dress, and the execution scene is just indicated by the couple turning their chairs back to the audience. However it IS fully acted if you get my drift, with the characters fully engaging with each other, usually to good effect. I was particularly impressed with the wonderful chemistry between Mehta and Schäfer as they gradually acknowledge their love for each other.

    The singing is of a high standard, with the only weak link being a rather anxious and harsh-sounding Bernada Fink as Irene – but when you are up against the glorious serenity of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the other version you might as well just roll over and die. Johannes Kränzle is a wonderfully capricious and lecherous Valens, but still delivering his arias with grave beauty, and Joseph Kaiser a fine emotionally charged Septimius. Christina Schäfer doesn’t always sound totally lovely but she does a great job of conveying Theodora’s emotional journey from fear to acceptance of her fate. Bejun Mehta sings with his usual accomplished beauty and still manages to maintain intensity and dignity while wearing Theodora’s little red dress for the whole of the last act.

    Natalie

  10. #38
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post


    The star attraction is, of course, Domingo. Well, I love him to bits, but I have to say the voice is a bit raspy and not at all Handelian, not enough flexibility really, and too verismo. That said, he was a very convincing Bajazet, full of outraged ire and fatherly concern, and his death scene was a riproarer, especially his tender farewell to his daughter.
    ...
    There was nothing in the production that outraged or puzzled me, a nice change for modern Handel productions.
    Agree with your notes. This version was interesting mainly because of Domingo taking on a solid Baroque role in one of Handel's finest. I'm not entirely convinced by Domingo's approach to Baroque Handel but he did a very fine job at it. It was a nice different way of taking on a Baroque role for a change. The orchestra was under capable directions of experienced Handelian conductor Paul McCreesh (who has done excellent CD versions of Theodora, Saul and Solomon). The only draw back musically was that there were some cuts in the final act.

    Tamerlano was composed in 1724, a year when Handel wrote three grand operas in succession: Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Rodelinda and Tamerlano.

  11. #39
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post


    Inspired by the joys of Handel and recommendations from another forum, I bought this Alcina. Well, I watched it, but I have mixed feelings. Alice Coote was wonderful, a beautiful rich mezzo voice and full of yearning, but the rest of the cast was not vocally up to her standards, although Catherine Naglestad in the title role bought a depth of characterisation to Alcina which was very moving. I actually couldn't bear to listen to Catriona Smith in the role of Alcina's sister Morgana. All the on-stage fondling was also a little distracting (although I can see that it was part of the story, which focuses very much on erotic befuddlement). However the set looked like the dining-room of a 1950s Bournemouth boarding-house - sadly completely lacking in magic.
    Hehe, I loved this one, and you know why.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  12. #40
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Oh yes, I know why.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    ... part of the story, which focuses very much on erotic befuddlement.
    I rest my case.
    Natalie

  13. #41
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Handel: Serse (Xerxes) on DVD

    Dresdner Musikfestspiele 2000 - EuroArts release 2011



    Serse - Opera in Three Acts, HWV 40 (April 15, 1738)
    Music by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
    Libretto - adapted anonymously from Silvio Stampiglia's Il Xerxe (Rome, 1694), in its turn after Nicolò Minato's libretto - the current production used an adaptation by Michael Hampe

    Conductor - Christophe Rousset
    Orchestra - Les Talens Lyriques (HIP)
    Chorus - Ludwigshafener Theaterchor
    Chorus Master - Klaus Thielitz

    Recorded live (composite) at the Semperoper, Dresden, June 2-3, 2000

    Directed for Stage by Michael Hampe
    Set and Costumes Designer by Carlo Tommasi
    Directed for TV by Philip Behrens

    Xerxes, King of Persia - Paula Rasmussen
    Arsamene, his brother, in love with Romilde - Ann Hallenberg
    Amastre, princess of the Kingdom of Tagor, betrothed to Xerxes, disguised as a man - Patricia Bardon
    Ariodate, a prince, commander of Xerxes' army - Marcello Lippi
    Romilde, his daughter, in love with Arsamene - Isabel Bayrakdarian
    Atalanta, his second daughter, secretly in love with Arsamene - Sandrine Piau
    Elviro, servant to Arsamene - Matteo Peirone

    Format NTSC 4:3
    Sound linear PCM 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1
    Subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish
    Region code zero (all)
    Running time 160 minutes
    Insert - Credits, list of chapters with arias, characters, and time. A 2-page essay that includes one paragraph about the plot (not a complete synopsis), in English, French, and German
    No extras

    -------------

    Serse is Handel's most comic opera (it's tragicomedic, really), with the figure of Elviro providing for some buffoonery. It also features more continuous music and the easing of the recitativo-da capo aria structure. Repetitions are much less frequent than in previous operas and there is more use of arioso. This doesn't stop it from being full of gorgeous music. Handel was trying to adapt his operas to the lightening taste of the audience, which was a tired of Italianate opera seria and craved some more entertaining burlesque material. So, he obliged, and produced a much lighter opera than his usual fare. This accounts for some popularity for this work once his operas were revived, and it now is not just praised for his signature aria Ombra mai fu. It is today Handel's second most popular opera after Giulio Cesare. At the time, however, it didn't stop the decline of Italian opera in London, which prompted Handel to abandon the genre after this effort, and to start his oratorios in English language.

    ------------

    Overture - very exquisitely performed on beautiful period instruments by the excellent Les Talens Lyriques with precise conducting by Rousset, no complaints there. Sound balance is excellent, sound is clear and crisp. So far, so good.

    Paula Rasmussen opens with the brief arioso Frondi tenere over a glass/metal set with a tree encased in a glass case, limited right and left by dark marble walls, on a vitreous ground surface.
    Costumes are updated to sometime pre-World War I, not particularly tasteful in my opinion.

    She has her back to the stage, turns slowly, and soon enough jumps into the highlight for this opera (the fastest one to come in all of opera, arguably), Ombra mai fu. Perfect, goosebumping rendition, full of musicality and intensity, wavy, very well controlled, with a beautiful timbre melting perfectly with the orchestra. Wow! I'm in for a treat!

    Glass panels slide up, several characters enter.

    After various recitatives, Isabel Bayrakdarian sings next, and she is beautiful in voice and figure.
    After a lyrical aria, we get the playfull Va godendo vezzoso e bello, over flutes that are played on stage. She has a good trill and and pitch control, and her voice is agile.

    Arsamene's first aria, a da capo piece, Io le dirò che l'amo, is executed correctly but without brilliance by Ann Hallenberg.

    Then we get a charming and elegant Sandrine Piau singing Sì, sì, mio ben, sì, sì. Her voice is delicate and she is a very good actress.

    Matteo Peirone's Elviro is goofy, and his voice is good enough for this small role, especially because it is not taxed since he mostly does recitatives.

    The sets are dark with all this grey marble and black surfaces. Visually this is not an attractive set.

    When Paula Rasmussen needs to sing louder and more forcefully while she displays jealous anger in Di tacere e di schernirmi, she is less successful than with her Ombra mai fu. She seems to be more comfortable with the more delicate and melodious material than with displaying loudness.

    There are only two more characters to enter the stage (Amastre and Ariodate). Right before they come in, we're are treated to another very beautiful rendition of Né men con l'ombre by Ms. Bayrakdarian. I really like her.

    Very, very dark panels slide from the sides and hide most of the stage, leaving just a strip of a proscenium, and we get the Amastre to enter and sing from this strip.

    Patricia Bardon sings Se cangio spoglia. Nothing extraordinary.

    Marcello Lippi is equally unremarkable as Ariodate. The panels slide out and we get some light at last, with a white background, for the soldiers chorus, with vaguely Japanese banners (?!?).

    Serse sings from a platform on top of large statues of elephants. Pardon the pun, but this staging is definitely heavy. Visually I quite dislike it. The singing though goes from correct to sublime, and the orchestra is great, therefore I'm happy enough.

    Acting-wise, the only singers who impress are Sandrine Piau and Isabel Bayrakdarian, the others are quite conventional, and some are rather stiff (although this can be said to be done in purpose, to highlight some of the ridiculous aspects of this tragicomedy). But overall, the acting is not bothersome.

    Serse gets another melodious and delicate aria that suits well Ms. Rasmussen voice thus we get another dose of sheer beauty - Più che penso alle fiamme. We are reminded once more of how beautiful Handel's music is. Paula is great here, in one of the most thrilling moments of this performance. Big applause.

    Ann Hallenberg, previously a weak link, warms up her voice and does significantly better with Non so, se sia la speme.

    The first act is now scheduled to end with the two most attractive females and best actresses in the roles of Atalanta and Romilde so I brace for something good.

    Indeed, even the sets improve, with a long, stylish couch and blue square openings breaking the monotony and darkness of the grey marble walls. This long scene is very good (10'15"), with the two rival sisters being sexy, charming, and funny - especially the more juvenile Atalanta. And they can sing! They surely both deserve a spot in our Lovely Sopranos and Mezzos thread, and I'll go there to do them justice!

    This the end of act I, and as Handel's operas go, I don't expect much variation in acts II and III so I feel prepared for the verdict for this DVD (if it changes later I can just edit this):

    One regrets the dark heavy scenery and the 4:3 image, otherwise this is very good with some excellent singing, conducting, and playing, and some attractive people. I won't say highly recommended because of some unevenness and the above visual problems, but it is a solid "recommended" - in letter grade, something between B+ and A-, probably the latter.

    Whether it is B+ or A- depends on people's taste for the sets and costumes - some reviews went crazy about them; I didn't like them. The musical side, however, is a solid A- or higher.

    PS - after watching acts II and III, reading about the chiaroscuro concept of this staging, and reflecting that the ridiculous costumes were done in purpose, I'm more inclined to forget about my dislike of the visuals, including because the treatment given to Serses' tree at the end is quite stunning. After all, regardless of the visuals, above all we have great music and great singing by Rasmussen, Bayrakdarian, and Piau, with a great orchestra and conductor, so I'm finally entirely convinced.

    Yes, it is a global A- and it is highly recommended.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); February 5th, 2012 at 04:40 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  15. #42
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Handel: Messiah on blu-ray

    Messiah, oratorio in three parts (HWV 56), sung in English, premiered in Dublin, 13 April 1742.
    Music by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
    Libretto by Charles Jennens (1700-1773), after the Bible

    Staged version



    Jean-Christophe Spinosi conducts the Ensemble Matheus
    Chorus Master Erwin Ortner and the Arnold Schoenberg Chor

    Stage director Claus Guth
    Set & Costume Design Christian Schmidt
    Lighting Design Jürgen Hoffmann
    Dramatic Adviser Konrad Kuhn
    Choreographer Ramses Sigl
    Video Director Hannes Rossacher

    Recorded live at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 3 and 4 April 2009 (the 250th anniversary of the composer's death), in co-production with Opéra National de Lorraine, Nancy

    Cast:
    Susan Gritton, soprano
    Cornelia Horak, soprano
    Bejun Mehta, contralto
    Richard Croft, tenor
    Florian Boesch, bass
    Martin Pöllmann, boy soprano
    Paul Lorenger, dancer
    Nadia Kichler, sign language performer

    -----------

    Blu-ray disc, co-production ORF/Arte and Unitel in cooperation with Theater an der Wien and Classica - 2009 release
    Artwork and Editorial, C Major Entertainment Group

    -----------

    NTSC 16:9 filmed in HD; PCM 2.0 and DTS-HD MA 5.1; impeccable image and sound
    Subtitles: English (original language), German, French, and Spanish
    Region code 0 (worldwide)
    Running time 154 minutes
    No extras
    The insert contains credits, chapter listing with singers' names and duration, production pictures in B&W, and a two-page essay in English, German, and French

    ---------------

    This is the kind of blu-ray disc that reminds us of why art and culture are important in our lives, and why we go through all the trouble and expenses of publishing a web site for operatic, vocal, and classical music, and contributing to its content.

    The elements in play here are the most divine music one can think of, exquisitely performed by a competent ensemble, chorus, and their conductor and chorus master, with outstanding singers/actors, a fine choreographer and dancers, made even more relevant and deeply moving by a sensitive, tasteful, and conceptually sound staging. It doesn't get much better than this. This production, this performance, and its rendering by technically accomplished sound and image engineering in state-of-the art medium are as close to perfection as one can hope for.

    Is there such thing as an "ultra-highly recommended A+++" rating? If there is, this one makes the grade.

    My entire opinion on Regietheater gets into quasi-disturbing rethinking here. Because, see, as you all know very well, the Messiah is not an opera, it's an oratorio. It doesn't have any plot. It is a collection of religious anthems and edifying art songs illustrating several isolated passages of the Bible. So, any attempt to give it a staged version is necessarily the ultimate definition of Regietheater. Such beloved masterpiece and landmark, such revered icon of Western musical culture is exactly what most people would think of as a sacred enough piece (in all meanings of the term) that nobody should be messing with it. And yet... and yet... Claus Guth did just that, and the result is unbelievably moving and touching.

    It is also very appropriate. The Messiah is "a reflexion on questions of religion and philosophy," says Mr. Guth. So, how better render its extraordinary power, than using it to illustrate a theatrical display of the most extreme situations we as human beings can be confronted with, the very ones that challenge our sense of purpose and faith? The senseless death of a loved one; the turmoil in a family that is caused by the inexplicable suicide of the head of the household. The pain, the suffering, the guilt, the attempt to understand, the revolt, the conformity... and it all being, for the sake of perspective, put in direct comparison to Jesus Christ's suffering, death, and ressurection. It is all brought into the 21st century in modern clothes, including those of the dancer who represents the Christ. A new figure is added - a sign language interpreter, adding to the staging a powerful metaphor about the quest for meaning as expressed by the symbols that she shapes with her hands and are recovered in the hand movements of the chorus (to strikingly beautiful effects).

    The extraordinary performers - no need to single out any of them, since they are homogeneously of the highest possible quality with no weak links - seem obviously in touch with the strong emotions evoked by this staging (it's got such a punch that every single person on stage and in the audience - including the home audience through this great blu-ray recording - must feel it), which makes of the acting something naturally convincing. OK, I said "no need to single out any of them" - but still, one can't help but comment on the phenomenal singing of Mr. Bejun Mehta, Mr. Florian Boesch (he could singer Wagner) and Mr. Richard Croft. Another great characteristic of this recording, in purely musical terms, is that unlike most productions of the Messiah, we get reduced numbers, with a small chorus. The result is surprisingly crystalline, clear, and pure.

    If you want to spend the next 154 minutes of your life immersed in sheer beauty that has the power to touch your soul in the deepest possible way, to prove once more that music is necessary to your very existence, purchase this masterpiece. I give it my highest recommendation of the last several years.

    [clicky]
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); August 25th, 2012 at 09:16 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  17. #43
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    If you want to spend the next 154 minutes of your life immersed in sheer beauty that has the power to touch your soul in the deepest possible way, to prove once more that music is necessary to your very existence, purchase this masterpiece. I give it my highest recommendation of the last several years.
    Youtube has the opera.....another modern production where color is forbidden????


  18. #44
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    I think it's more about Claus Guth and his interpretation of the Biblical themes. Remember, the libretto of The Messiah was skillfully compiled by Charles Jennens from scriptures straight out of his version of the Bible, and The Messiah was a very atypical Handel oratorio because of its Biblical libretto that contained no drama (compared with Handel's other English dramatic oratorios). Almaviva made an excellent point I think, that this production was really a Regietheatre. I do not yet have a copy but from the many parts that I have watched on Youtube, I do not think the underlying Messianic themes come through much at all. This version probably is probably a standout from its staged elements more than anything else.

    As I have many excellent versions of The Messiah on CD, I won't be in hurry to buy this staged version, but from the many parts that I have listened to, staging aside, the orchestral performance and singing appeared quite capable.

  19. #45
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark_Angel View Post
    Youtube has the opera.....another modern production where color is forbidden????

    Yes, it is dark... since it deals with a very dark subject: death.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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