Search - Caravaggio on DVD

Actors: Monteverdi, Connelly, Malakhov, Semionova
Director: Morrell
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2009     1hr 33min


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Movie Details

Actors: Monteverdi, Connelly, Malakhov, Semionova
Director: Morrell
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: DTS, Classical, Ballet & Dance
Studio: Arthaus Musik
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/30/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 33min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Potentially beautiful DVD ruined by rapid-fire editing
John Bolender | Ankara Turkey | 07/18/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)

"This could have been beautiful. I don't doubt it would have been very nice to have seen it live on stage. But the DVD is ruined by someone's bright idea that the editing should be as rapid-fire as possible. Every 0.3 to 0.5 of a second, the perspective changes. And the perspectives are wildly different from one another: one fraction of a second, you are right in a dancer's face. The next fraction of a second, you are far away as though near the audience. The fraction of a second after that, you are directly over the dancers -- and you are spinning around! And it's relentless. What did the filmmaker think this would achieve? Long movement lines are ruined. A lot tension is created, and for no reason. The only way to watch this is to freeze frame it, which does produce lovely silent images -- while obliterating the music, sadly. All that work put in by choreographer, dancers, composer, etc. botched by a filmmaker who doesn't know how to film dance."
The Caravaggio Code: To unravel this enigma . . .
J. Faulk | New York NY USA | 10/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Step 1: Get over the misinformation and pedantry. The disc booklet, listing the 17 sections of the ballet, includes the titles Journey to Rome, The Tooth Extraction (ye gods!), Young Musicians, The Cardsharps, Dispute and Duel, and the three titles of the Saint Matthew Triptych. All that is absolute rubbish, and a stumbling block for the viewer. Below, I outline the progression of Acts I and II. But first, let's riffle through my little notebook:

Posted on the backstage bulletin board: "Caravaggio (1571-1610) was a leading practitioner of chiaroscuro, sidelight dramatically bringing his figures out of the enveloping gloom. He plunged right into his canvas, without preliminary sketches, and absolutely needed models, maybe low commoners right off the street. Temperamental, argumentative, and belligerent, he was a brawler and a terror. As a 'killer,' he stayed away from the Eternal City in his last four years, dying of malaria in Porto Ercole 90 miles away."

Thanks to TV director Andreas Morrell, assisted by a director of photography and six cameramen, the ballet was filmed and edited as a movie (ever refreshing your vision) where the faces, the upper torsos, the hands do make a difference. You will see ten times what the premiere audience saw from the orchestra and three horseshoe tiers. An inspiration is the overhead camera(s) which gives you the wings of an angel.

Amauro Bigonzetti, choreographer, born 1960 in one of the rougher sections of Rome, danced professionally for ten years, then switched to choreography because he believes a ballet company should develop from within rather than depend on guest stars. He's fond of his corps of young dancers, and spreads them throughout Act I and they jump and spin for joy. Though he is not given to talking about himself, you can find some interesting facts by googling "bigonzetti macau culture centre".

Composer Bruno Moretti, a favorite collaborator of Bigonzetti, has symphonized extracts from Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, Poppea, madrigals, and religious works into 90 minutes of eminently listenable music, vivacious, emotional, militaristic, that infuses the dancers. It deserves its own CD.

Conductor Paul Connelley takes the traditional bow at curtain call and spreads his bracket over the pit, but it's inky black. My surmise is that the music was pre-recorded, as indeed heard in the rehearsals.

As Caravaggio, the renowned Russian dancer Malakhov is 40 on this DVD. He has the well tuned lean body of a 20 year old and is caramel blond. He will not at all be capable of conveying the black haired cocky terror we consider the painter to have been. But surprisingly the ballet characterizes the painter as an outsider, self doubting, teased, bullied, seeking affection and affiliation, agonized that death will cut him short. Malakhov is clad only in a wrapped brief throughout the production, such vulnerability! So let us define Malakhov as the homunculus of the man, the sensitive inner being lodged in the brain that must be protected by a bristling exterior.

The beautiful long legged Semionova says in the Supplement that her character is Light in Act I, but in Act II she has to do terrible things. Well, that's why a Total Eclipse so frightened the populace in centuries past. She's bandaged into a brief costume with a RED RIBBON twining her right arm. Remember that, because the Messenger of Death is a virtual twin but WITHOUT THE RIBBON.

Seemingly the only German among the principals, Knop is a phenomenal dancer, as is Semionova. As the Messenger of Death, she must maintain a dour expression. She is a (forget the Belle) Dame sans Merci.

Handsome Kaniskin and Semionov play the two mischievous Athletes from ancient Rome. Carrillo is the rather haughty Fortune Teller. Nakamura and Banzhaf are the True Lovers, already in sacramental bond.

But Leo!!! Of Croatian lineage (?), a graduate of the Munich ballet academy, Leonard Jakovina is an explosion of masculinity reserved for Act II. As Caravaggio's significant other, he is love, flesh, brother, defender, triumph. Call him the Warrior.


The Sinfonia is played under the opening credits, backed by images of Bigonzetti and dancers in rehearsal.

Act I: (1) At centerstage, young Caravaggio in Milan, an arc of seated figures about him, expresses his uncertainty and longing and reaches skyward. Beautiful Light enters and bonds with him. (2) Rome. The corps fills the stage, pairing off into couples on this festive day. The two Athletes rush on, each with a bunch of grapes. Suddenly, several youths carry on Caravaggio teasingly. The Athletes dump wine down his throat and he staggers about. (3) A hush falls as the Messenger of Death enters, seizing him, attacking him, dominating him. (4) The exuberant corps returns, and the Athletes wine them. (5) Caravaggio enters, tries to join in. (6) The Fortune Teller solicits palms. In Caravaggio's hand she sees blood and doom, and abandons him for the Athletes. (7) Caravaggio and the True Lovers join hands. He leads her aside for himself, but she returns to her Lover for an exquisite pas de deux. (8) The corps returns with the Athletes and Fortune Teller. Their grande finale is punctuated by pings from a little silver anvil. (9) All are repulsed as Caravaggio drags on a red silk swath like a bloody tongue. He sinks down but determinedly rises as Light returns to embrace him. He lifts her as behind them appears the great golden frame, with a portal draped in reddish purple.

Act II: (1)The great frame shows cropped versions of The Musicians ca. 1595, Judith and Holofernes 1597-1600, The Entombment 1600-1604. (2) Caravaggio is seated at centerstage, and in the frame's black interior is the miniaturizaton of the True Lover male, moving in unison with him. (3) The Warrior appears and he and Caravaggio dance together lovingly, sensuously. (4) The True Lovers dance and finally take Caravaggio in. (5) He's alone. Light enters, and she seems changed, ominous. (6) The Messenger and the Warrior enter, she is different, enamored by his tenderness. Finally, she slashes at his spine, tries to dominate him, but it's a draw. (7) Light forces hand to hand bond of the True Lovers, Caravaggio, Messenger, and Warrior. (8) A servant girl brings on a tray with a trough of blood. Light dips Caravaggio's hand in it and makes him slash three of the principals, and she slashes the fourth. Light drags away the writhing file of five, but Caravaggio breaks away, smeared with blood, weakening. (9) The shades of the True Lovers and the Messenger dance about his fallen form. (10) The Warrior lowers himself out of the frame, dances militaristically around the fallen artist, telling us This Man Will Triumph. (11) Light and Caravaggio dance, the pact fulfilled. She lies prone, and he dances alone reprising gestures from the outset of the ballet. As he falls dying across her body, he grasps her hand. Blood rains down on his breathless chest.

[This is my fourth Bravo! for this ballet. You can hear my first three on the DVD. Several nights after the premiere, at McQueen's Next Whiskey Bar, I asked the bartender, "Why does Light have a red ribbon around her arm?" He answered, "Because Mauro dedicates the ballet to all the AIDS people in the world." I reached for another pretzel and believed him.]
Dancing in the Dark
MusicMan465 | USA | 09/12/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)

"The elements of the artist Caravaggio's tumultuous life, his artistic achievement, and historical perspective, are all reflected in the DVD of the Berlin State Ballet's DVD production of Caravaggio, choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti, with a new score by Bruno Moretti drawn from the early Baroque music of Claudio Monteverdi.

Michelangelo Merisi (1571-1610) was the innovative, famous, notorious Renaissance painter known as Caravaggio, taken from the Italian village in which his family lived. Though he lived only a brief life, art history points to Caravaggio as having a profound influence on the new Baroque style of art that exploded in the early 17th century after his death. This Italian master of "darkness and light," or chiaroscuro painting, frequently depicted vivid, real images of intense emotion, bathed in light against dark backdrops. Such elements are to be found reflected within Berlin State Ballet's production based on Caravaggio's life and art, but with intentional modern twists. Caravaggio's influential impact on the development of Western art was only rediscovered 300 years later, in the 20th century, and the ballet's creators wanted this rediscovery to be incorporated, and it is, perhaps too much. I approached the ballet with high expectations based on the facts: that it featured an important subject figure from Italian Renaissance art, musical material drawn from an important Italian composer, but within a one-decade shadow of the 20th century in which the artist was rediscovered. I expected an interpretive ballet that reflected Caravaggio's life and aesthetic, in modern language full of curiosity, implied dramatic threads, and stunning imagery. In Caravaggio's supporting elements, its score and creative designs, it delivered. Yet it fell short due to important flaws in the overarching unbalanced structure of the ballet, and rather melodramatic, uber-modern choreographic style.

Bruno Moretti's score admirably demonstrates the company's creative intent. The composer utilizes modern musical language and full orchestral scoring, frequently drawn from spare themes by Monteverdi, but interspersed with entirely new sounds. Caravaggio's creative designs are also major highlights, with Carlo Cerri's outstanding chiaroscuro lighting and Kristopher Millar and Lois Swandale's beautifully rendered, spare, shroud-like costumes that reflected Caravaggesque imagery with a fluid modernism. But even with such strong supporting elements to its credit, the overarching structure of the ballet demonstrated a lack of larger scenes for the strong Berlin corps de ballet, and far too many solos and pas de deux's. Also, Mr. Bigonzetti's choreography was far skewed with modern, taut, angular movement and rather melodramatic, if occasionally impressive, athletic prowess. Melodrama abounds particularly in the lengthy Martyrdom of St. Matthew in the second act. The principal role of Caravaggio is overexposed in this piece, with frequent interruptions in scenes, and emotional gestural motifs that became repetitive. Caravaggio moves fluently from darkness into light, ripped by emotional angst, we get it! There are a few gorgeous dances, especially in the first act of mostly small ensembles intended to interpret several of Caravaggio's most famous paintings, especially ones performed against dramatic, direct Monteverdi quotes in the score. However, the few full corps dances that are seen seem to lack the creativity and polish that went into the heavier principal sections. The historically strong corps of the Berlin State Ballet appears so infrequently that I felt they were truly relegated to backdrop. Demonstrated by the camera direction consisting of mostly close-up shots and rapid editing, Mr. Bigonzetti's work also appeared too focused on the upper body. Thus, the camera did not capture as much broader ensemble, beautiful silhouettes and patterns, or thrilling footwork that the score might have allowed the film to achieve.

Overall, this DVD is worth seeing once to hear Mr. Moretti's interesting orchestrations, and the gorgeous production values. As for the dancing, it tends to venture a little too far into the dark.