Search - Benjamin Britten - Owen Wingrave / Margaret Williams, Gerald Finley, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin on DVD

Benjamin Britten - Owen Wingrave / Margaret Williams, Gerald Finley, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin
Benjamin Britten - Owen Wingrave / Margaret Williams Gerald Finley Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin
Actors: Gerald Finley, Peter Savidge, Josephine Barstow
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2005     1hr 32min

Thirty years after the original broadcast, Owen Wingrave returned to the small screen in a new version by the highly-regarded music and arts director Margaret Williams, who reveals through a vivid film vocabulary the inten...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Gerald Finley, Peter Savidge, Josephine Barstow
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Classical
Studio: Kultur Video
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 02/22/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 32min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

(3 out of 5 stars)

"In spite of the good effort performed by director Margaret Williams,this film falls way short of showing Britten's intentions.Those of us who are familiar with the original TV broadcast from the 1970's will agree upon the fact that the original production taped at The Maltings,Snape outdoes this new attempt by miles of distance.The surroundings of Paramore are much more appropriate to the climate brought about by Henry James's novel upon which the opera is based.The updating
of the action I find,like all updatings quite ludicrous and mediocre in taste.
Good singing from canadian baritone Gerald Finley and the rest of the cast is also appropriate with the exception of the role of Spencer Coyle tackled in the old tape by bass-baritone John shirley-Quirk in a much better fashion.
It remains a passible attempt with three stars as qualification.

Britten's pacifist plea
Richard | Minneapolis, Mongolia | 03/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is my least familiar Britten opera and it is generally known as his least successful. Here is a new film of the opera which preserves the fluency of the original which was written for TV. It has lots of similarities with the Church Parables but even more with the War Requiem with which it shares the anti-war theme. It is a very good performance - significantly quicker than the original. And the film does justice to the work - updating it to the 1950s. But it still seems musically thin to me. And it is also shrill: basically Owen comes out as a pacifist and his family and fiance reject and disown him. Only his teacher and his wife have sympathy for him. That is not much for a plot. And there's a lot of shouting from his family who are pretty one dimensional."
Britten's Anti-War Opera Not a Complete Success But Has Wort
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 03/06/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Even a lesser work from a late-period Benjamin Britten is worthy of a look and listen, and this 2001 production from Germany directed by Margaret Williams certainly has the quality production values to do justice to the composer's 1971 opera, a work originally developed for television. Based on an 1892 ghost story by Henry James, it's a relatively straightforward anti-war story set in 1958 about a soldier who turns into a conscientious objector and consequently a family outcast. The piece reminds me a lot of Britten's anti-violence masterwork "Billy Budd", as I was struck by the central irony of Owen's predicament - that the traditional source of support, his family, turns into a more virulent war than any combat he would have faced on the battlefield.

The actual filming locations help immeasurably to build the context of the story, but the downside is the lack of adjustment made by singers who are used to delivering their voices full-blast onstage. I imagine part of the reasoning has to do with the story's theme of intolerance and that Williams feels a need to give a sense of belligerent ensemble to epitomize the adversarial force against the hero. The other detrimental factor to this production is the lethargic pacing. Fortunately, baritone Gerald Finley - who impressed me last October as Robert Oppenheimer in another period opera, John Adams' "Doctor Atomic" - plays the title role with admirable restraint and sings powerfully throughout. He makes palpable the character's decreasing sense of personal power as the story lurches along.

All the singing is quite accomplished, though there are two standouts among the actors. Mezzo-soprano Charlotte Hellekant makes Kate Julian at once beautiful and foreboding, especially in her Act II taunting of Owen for his perceived cowardice, and bass-baritone Peter Savidge makes Owen's sole supporter, Spencer Coyle, a highly sympathetic figure. Regardless of the flaws, I still feel that experiments to translate opera to the screen are worthwhile to pursue, though after having also experienced Barbara Willis Sweete's 2002 film adaptation of Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet", I still await a wholly successful transfusion. On the DVD, there is one invaluable extra, an hour-long documentary on the life of Britten with particular emphasis on three of his masterworks - "Peter Grimes", "War Requiem" and "Death in Venice". There is a treasure trove of archived performances (in particular, rare footage of Britten's partner Peter Pears' performance in "Peter Grimes") and current-day interviews with Britten's contemporaries. This part of the DVD is a genuine must for any Britten aficionado."
The bonus is real
RTF King | 12/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I agree very much with Mr Chilson's comments on the opera itself. I would just like to add that the accompanying documentary is very well worth watching by anybody with even the slightest interest in Britten."