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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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  9. #155
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Porgy and Bess on Blu-ray disc

    Porgy and Bess, opera in two acts, sung in English, premiered in Boston on September 30th, 1935
    Music by George Gershwin
    Libretto by DuBose Haywarth and Ira Gerswhin, based on the play Porgy by DuBose Haywarth and Dorothy Haywarth, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by DuBose Haywarth (1925)

    A production of San Francisco Opera, originally produced for the stage by the Washington National Opera
    Stage Director Francesca Zambello (Opera Lively interviewee)
    San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus Conducted by John DeMain
    Chorus Director Ian Robertson
    Concertmaster Kay Stern
    Set Designer Peter J. Davidson
    Costume Designer Paul Tazewell
    Lighting Designer Mark McCullough
    Choreographer Denni Sayers


    Principal Roles

    Porgy - Eric Owens
    Bess - Laquita Mitchell
    Crown - Lester Lynch
    Sportin' Life - Chauncey Packer

    Secondary Roles

    Serena - Alteouise deVaughn
    Clara - Angel Blue
    Jake - Eric Greene


    Mingo - Michael Bragg
    Robbins - Michael Austin
    Peter - Calvin Lee
    Frazier - Kenneth Overton
    Annie - Malesha Jessie
    Lily - Amber Mercomes
    Strawberry woman - Samantha McElhaney
    Jim - Earl Hazell
    Undertaker - Darren K. Stokes
    Crab man - Ashley Faatoalia
    Detective - Richard Farrell
    Policeman - Louis Landman
    Coroner - John Minágro
    Soloists of the San Francisco Opera Chorus

    Recorded live at San Francisco Opera - War Memorial Auditorium - in June 2009

    Blu-ray Disc released by EuroArts and San Francisco Opera in 2014 (also available on DVD)
    Directed for the screen by Frank Zamacona
    Executive Producer David Gockley

    Runtime - opera + curtain calls and credits, 158 minutes
    Bonus material - 29 minutes
    Bonus: Meet the Artists (features interviews with all principal singers and secondary roles), Meet the Stage Director (interview with Francesca Zambello), Meet the Conductor (Interview with John DeMain), and About the Opera (mini-lecture by David Gockley, featuring several historical pictures of past productions).

    Regions - All (worldwide)
    TV Format - 1080i Full HD 16:9
    Sound Formats - PCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
    Subtitles - English (original language), German, French, Japanese, and Korean
    Insert: 7 color production pictures, credits, Musical Numbers with characters and duration, 2-page synopsis, 2-page essay by David Gockley, repeated in English, German, and French.


    This sublime masterpiece is my biggest operatic pride as an American. This opera has it all: spectacular melodies, theatrical quality, interesting and iconic characters, great plot, phenomenal pace, and a score to die for that is not only very lyrical in the best operatic singing tradition, but also full of eventful stretches and charming influences of Jazz and Gospel. It is incredible that an opera with no fewer than 22 singing roles is never confusing, with every role occupying a well-defined niche, and a remarkably flowing story line.

    Writing the music and the words for opera and adding to the work enchanting and emotionally rich theatricality are tricky artistic tasks, and only in some of the best works of the repertory the creators have achieved perfection. Of course, for the opera lover, those rare and cherished works that are just right in all aspects, deliver the highest peaks of pleasure. Porgy and Bess is such a work. Not a single note is superfluous or missing. Not a single word is one too many or lacking. It is too bad that George Gershwin tragically died so young. He could have left us a string of great operas if a brain tumor hadn't robbed the world of his magnificent talent.

    Now, add to the above an extremely competent package that has everything that a well-done Blu-ray disc needs to have: excellent image and sound (with both PCM and DTS), check. Subtitles in original language and a few more, check. List of musical numbers with duration and characters, check. Synopsis but also a good and insightful essay, check. Interviews with singers, director, and conductor, check. An informative and historically precious lecture, check.

    And then, top it all with an interesting production that is well-directed with great blocking and choreography, a bright, energetic, accomplished and well-conducted orchestra, a tuneful chorus, and an absolutely brilliant cast with gifted singers who act well too and look their parts, in virtually all roles including the comprimarios... and you get operatic heaven.

    We are here in the presence of absolute perfection, from the piece itself, to the execution and performing, to the packaging. Not only that, but this version restores 30 minutes of music cut from other productions, and brings back the original recitatives (yep, it's an opera, not a musical), being arguably the definitive rendition of this astonishing masterpiece.

    5 stars out of 5, 10 points out of 10, A+++ or whatever other maximum praise can only do justice to this fine product. It's not for nothing that I consider San Fran Opera the second best opera company in the United States, and this particular effort rivals or surpasses anything that the #1 company (the Met) has ever put together.

    This is my second Porgy and Bess in video. I also own the Glyndebourne version with Sir Simon Rattle, and that one is a fine, fine DVD as well; but this Blu-Ray disc still beats it, given the complete score and all the qualities mentioned above. Bravo, San Fran Opera, and special kudos to Eric Owens' tour-de-force of a performance!

    This product can't be recommended enough. If you haven't seen it yet, you need to get to it right now!

    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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