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Thread: Modern and Contemporary Opera on DVD, blu-ray, and CD

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  1. #151
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    I like the music of Philip Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass

    He's scary!
    "Every theatre is an insane asylum, but an opera theatre is the ward for the incurables."

    FRANZ SCHALK, attributed, Losing the Plot in Opera: Myths and Secrets of the World's Great Operas

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  3. #152
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Lessons in Love and Violence, opera in two parts, sung in English, on blu-ray disc
    Music by [Opera Lively interviewee] George Benjamin (b. 1960)
    Text by [Opera Lively interviewee] Martin Crimp (b. 1956)
    Premiered at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, London, UK, 10 may 2018

    Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by the composer George Benjamin; Co-Concert Master Sergey Levitin
    Stage Director, Opera Lively interviewee Katie Mitchell
    Set Designer Vicki Mortimer
    Lighting James Farncombe
    Movement Director and Associate Director Joseph Alford


    King - Opera Lively interviewee Stéphane Degout
    Isabel - Opera Lively interviewee Barbara Hannigan
    Gaveston/Stranger - Gyula Orendt
    Mortimer - Peter Hoare
    Boy, later Young King - Samuel Boden
    Girl - Ocean Barrington-Cook
    Witness 1/Singer 1/Woman 1 - Jennifer France
    Witness 2/Singer 2/Woman 2 - Krisztina Szabó
    Witness 3/Madman - Andri Björn Róbertsson
    Plus 20 actors and actresses


    This blu-ray disc contains the recording of the world première. All regions, LPCM 24 bit 2.0 or DTS-HD Master Audio. 1081i HD 16:9, 1 BD50. Running time 88 minutes opera, 5 minutes bonus feature: Clemency Burton-Hill interviews George Benjamin, Martin Crimp, and Katie Mitchell, plus a cast gallery.

    This is a co-production of the Royal Opera House with Dutch National Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Opéra de Lyon, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Gran Teatre del Liceu, and Teatro Real de Madrid.

    Film by Opera Lively interviewee François Roussillon (et associés), directed for the screen by Margaret Williams.

    The insert contains seven color production pictures, credits, a 4-page interview with George Benjamin and Martin Crimp, and a one-page synopsis, repeated in English, French, and German.


    Dear readers, I consider this review to be somewhat preliminary, because an opera by George Benjamin can't be fully absorbed in one viewing, and this is my very first encounter with this one. I shall watch this blu-ray disc over and over, several times, over the next several months, in order to be able to match my relationship with George's Written on Skin, which I've seen live at the theater three times, each with a different cast, and multiple times online and on blu-ray disc (and was so enthusiastic about it, that I wrote and published a guidebook to it).

    George, Martin, and Katie are extraordinary artists, and what they put together needs to be savored with care and time and commitment. Each opportunity to witness their artistry brings more layers of understanding and fruition.

    But hey, I'm seeing this one today, so I'll be writing up my first impressions, even if they won't contain the full experience of several viewings; why not?

    My most recently reviewed contemporary opera was Muhly's Marnie. I mentioned that the young composer would have a lot to learn from the master George Benjamin, in terms of intensity and pace. I was thinking of Written on Skin when I said that.

    Arguably Lessons in Love and Violence would serve even better as a teaching tool for operatic intensity.

    From the opening of the first of its 7 scenes, it is already terrifying, and it hits you like a brick! That is really what intense means!

    Cruelty, arrogance, selfishness, love, murder, jealousy, contempt, greed, power, desire, perversion, sadism, revenge, it's all in display from the very beginning, under the horrified gaze of the two children (the boy and the girl - especially her, a non-singing role that portrays all the horror of what she witnesses), exquisitely conveyed by these extraordinary singers and actors who get to say Crimp's sophisticated text, and it is all spectacularly illustrated by George's *brilliant* vocal and instrumental score!

    Oh boy! That's opera! It doesn't get any better!

    A critic recently said that this work, in the wake of George's two excellent earlier efforts (Into the Little Hill and Written on Skin), solidifies the claim that Benjamin is the best English operatic composer since Purcell.

    Good, but this doesn't really do him justice. He is not just the best English operatic composer since Purcell. He is simply one of the best operatic composers of all time, period, since the art form was first created. I've sustained, from my first contact with his music, that future generations will look back and quote George Benjamin together with the other geniuses such as Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and so on.

    Is this an exaggeration? Not at all. People only have a hard time seeing it, because we don't have enough degree of separation from his works, given that he is a live composer. But George is as good as any operatic composer in history. He is absolutely elite.

    Just think of it. Even the greatest composers often stumbled at first, and took a while to get going. George's chamber opera Into the Little Hill, his first, was already extremely compelling and rather flawless. His second one, Written on Skin, is an astounding masterpiece of the highest caliber. His third one, this one, is just as good. By the time George composes eight or ten, his name will be etched in gold among the greatest operatic composers in history. Mark my words. It will happen.

    Is George Benjamin the best operatic composer in activity? I'd say he is, but I will add that some others can put forward a claim to a tie: Salvatore Sciarrino (with an already significant number of great works to his name, more prolific than George and Thomas), and Thomas Adès (also with only three operas so far, but all three just as good as George's three - Powder her Face, The Tempest, and The Exterminating Angel), in addition to the rather irregular Philip Glass (very prolific, so that not all of his works have the highest level of quality, but when he is good, he is great - just think of Satyagraha and Akhnaten!). Are there many other worthy contemporary composers? Sure, but frankly, I don't see any of them being as good as these four.

    Back to Lessons in Love and Violence. It is devastating, sad, poignant, and scary. What a portrait of the worst in human nature! The point being made is that, precisely, the two most striking characteristics of the human species, are love and violence. It's what makes us human. It's what opera is about.

    George's score, oh my God! Is there anything more perfect to illustrate each of these horrible scenes? He navigates with ease from the soft and melodious sounds of love in the more intimate moments, to the most shattering, loud and disruptive sounds of violence, in order to make of the score the very incarnation of the opera's title. Not to forget, the musical interludes between the scenes are a thing of beauty! How refreshing it is, to see a genius at work!

    Let's hear from George himself, how the defines the way his music matches the action:

    "Each scene needs some sort of tone color to it. The first one is capricious, varied and volatile. In the second, the terrible, outside catastrophe of the kingdom comes inside the court, so I had to reflect the disaster that was happening in people's lives. that meant that the tone is steely and often desolate and gray. The scene between the King and Isabel alone equally has a different tone - a nocturne with reduced orchestration. It has an intimacy and an entirely different personality from every other scene, while the beginning of the scene where the Madman is introduced has a playfulness which is also unique in the score."

    Katie Mitchell's staging is again very perceptive in conveying the sense of a slow-moving train wreck. She and her movement director use slow motion again, a device that is sort of a Katie Mitchell signature. Crimp's text is great. The cast couldn't be any better. It's the first time I see Barbara in a non-sympathetic, cold and cruel role, and she again demonstrates that her acting range is just as good as her vocal one. Plus, she is just gorgeous! Those waves of flowing hair around her pretty face are to die for. Stéphane Degout is a rare jewel as well, being one of the most gifted actors among his generation of singers. Gyula Orendt is a good surprise: I hadn't seen him before, and he is also excellent! All other roles were manned by very good artists.

    With the privilege of having the live composer holding the baton, the phenomenal Orchestra of the Royal Opera House once more proves that you don't need to be an ensemble that specializes in contemporary music to do it well.

    In summary, this is just perfect. A masterpiece of an opera, executed by extraordinary artists.

    I was afraid that after the uniquely great Written on Skin, George would have big shoes to fill (his own, hehe). No worries. Lessons in Love and Violence is an opera does maintain George's outstanding quality.

    Some critics expressed ennui with the fact that George again reached for Crimp and Mitchell to put together his new work (and the main female role went again to Barbara Hannigan), and called it "more of the same." They couldn't be more misguided. First of all, yes, give me more of the same, if this "same" is made of the best contemporary operas being composed today, executed by the best musicians. Sure, that's what we want: high quality pieces! Second, it's not really "the same." Lessons in Love and Violence is an opera with its own personality, with more voices as compared to Written on Skin, a larger ensemble, and an ambitious plot. Third, why should we blame a winning team? Would we blame Mozart for collaborating three times with Da Ponte? Should we lament the fact that the greatest soprano specializing in contemporary music, Barbara Hannigan (I'm not the only one saying it; Sir Simon Rattle is of the same opinion), is singing again an opera by her good friend and collaborator George Benjamin? Should we deplore the fact that Martin Crimp is such a competent librettist, able to put together poetry that fits perfectly the operatic medium? Why not get Katie Mitchell again, one of the best directors in activity?

    Me, I'll say, give me more of this "same"! I look forward to their fourth collaboration, and I'm rather happy that I have had opportunities to interact closely with these great artists, who granted to Opera Lively fabulous exclusive interviews.

    In summary, A++, maximum score in all domains! This blu-ray disc is a must buy for all lovers of contemporary opera in particular, and all opera lovers in general.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); March 14th, 2019 at 03:14 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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  5. #153
    Senior Member Veteran Member Povero Buoso's Avatar
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    I know this is somewhat delayed (Dissertation for my Masters has been eating up a lot of time) but I would throughly agree with you in regards to lessons in love and violence. Having been lucky enough to be there during the run I have to say it was throughly amazing to sit through live and as I am writing this just purchased the recording for my ipod (I dont like this new streaming technology and it is far to newfangled for me at 24 I'd say). I remember throughly enjoying it at the time and am looking forward to rexploring it. It will certainly make a change from my purchasing of eurovision songs, gilbert and sullvian and strauss operettas that has been the norm recently.
    "Non sono in vena" Rodolfo summing up P.B's feelings on his dissertation.

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  7. #154
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    Hope all goes well with the dissertation and your Master's!

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