Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Carl Nielsen - Maskarade |
Royal Danish Opera
Actors: Stephan Milling, Susanne Resmark, Niels Jorgen Riis, Poul Elming, Michael Schonwandt
Director: Kasper Bech Holten
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Fun performance but.......
G. Stefan Lazar | San Francisco, CA USA | 02/17/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I was very much looking forward to this performance and in many respects I wasn't disappointed. The singing was excellent and the updated production was a lot of fun. So why only 3 stars? The video director had the wrong focus BIG TIME. There were constant cuts to the orchestra or individual orchestra members when they had a solo. It was exasperating - totally ruining the flow of the performance and that is critical to a comedy. What was s/he thinking? I counted 107 in act 3 alone! If you want a DVD of this opera, find the one on Capriccio from the Bregenzer Festspiele by David Pountney. I don't think it's available in the US. I purchased mine in Munich last year."
An Amusing Production of an Amusing Opera
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 02/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unlike the first reviewer of this DVD (Stefan Lazar), I found this DVD of Nielsen's comic masterpiece to be a real jewel. Granted I have not, like Mr Lazar, seen the earlier DVD of the opera and thus cannot compare the two. But I found little in this DVD to argue with. His primary objection seems to be that the camera frequently shifts from stage to orchestra (or to the lively actions of conductor Michael Schonwandt who, amusingly, mouths every word of the libretto as he conducts). As an instrumentalist myself, I found this not to be distracting and in fact thought that the editing was masterly in that the cuts to the orchestra tended to emphasize the many felicities of Nielsen's extraordinarily inventive orchestral score, all without taking away from the action on stage.
The action has been updated to the near-present from the libretto's original 18th century. This makes little difference to the story itself and does not distract at all. The story of mistaken identities, controlling fathers, young lovers, scheming servants, and the like, updates quite nicely. There are many amusing touches that could not have been included in a literal 18th century production; e.g., the night watchman on roller skates. There are some inventive touches in the stage design. For instance, the lineup across the stage of the beds of all the main characters in the nocturnal Act II. And there is a trompe l'oeil scene in Act I that I won't describe for fear of spoiling its surprise for possible viewers. The gala Act III masked ball is replete with colorful costumes, dancers, acrobats, and even a trapeze act.
As for the musical values of the production, I can't be more enthusiastic. The orchestra of the Royal Danish Opera is simply superb (and I was glad to see so many of the players close up). The chorus, too, is marvelous. But my highest praise goes to the singing and acting of the cast, most of them young singers not otherwise known on the international scene. I would single out the production's Henrik, Johan Reuter, who not only sings beautifully but acts the lovable scamp to a T. Leander's father, Jeronimus, is the fine basso Stephen Milling who not only sings well but plays the comic/stern father convincingly. The young lovers, Leander and Leonora (yes, yet another operatic Leonora) are played and sung marvelously by Niels Jorgen Riis and Gisella Stille. It doesn't hurt that the members of the cast look their parts. Even the less-than-svelte Magdelone (the middle-aged Mrs Jeronimus), played and sung by Susanne Resmark, makes a ridiculously kittenish flirt.
Indeed, I found myself laughing out loud repeatedly while watching this production while at the same time drinking in Nielsen's beautiful and inventive music.
There are helpful notes and a fine synopsis but no libretto. However, subtitles for the Danish are given in English, German and Danish. Menu language: English. Bonus feature: The Making of 'Maskarade'. Sound: Dolby digital, DTS. Picture format: 16:9. Regional code: Worldwide. Running time: 138 mins
Good performance betrayed by incompetent video direction
Richard | Minneapolis, Mongolia | 03/26/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I hope we are not about to enter the era of the regie video director alongside the stage regie director. If you've ever wondered what an opera looks like from the pit watch this video. I think there is more attention paid to the pit than to the stage. Sleiborg's philosophy seems to be to cut every 10 seconds. By the end I had a headache. Besides which he is unable to accomplish the most basics of video direction. At times the camera fails to capture the singer (and this is when it is on the stage). At least once we get to see an orchestra member who isnt't even playing. He destroys one key surprise by filming neither the actor nor instrumentalist. To be really fair he should have cut to members of the audience as well. The lady unwrapping her candy; the gentleman snoozing. They are part ot the experience also. He far surpasses any theater of alienation. Berold Brecht would have been proud of him. From what one can see of it the performance is decent. But who can tell. Would that Brian Large could direct all videos - he knows exactly how to do it. Does he given lessons?"
Bob Epstein | Minneapolis | 05/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This set seems to have divided opinions not on the quality of the opera and the performance - which are superb - but on the filming of Nielsen's delightful and charming Maskarade.
I totally side with J. Scott Morrison in his enthusiastic response to this DVD, filming and all. The frequent camera movement didn't bother me in the least. It was not disconcerting and didn't intrude upon my enjoyment of this wonderful Danish treat a bit. If anything, I think the camera changes enhance the rambunctious comedy on stage. In fact, the filming quite outstandingly seems to focus on the right thing at the right time with great regularity, no small feat with what the video director has attempted.
I found it charming to observe the occasional smiling instrumentalist obviously delighting in what was taking place on stage, and seeing frequent glimpses of conductor Michael Schonwandt mouthing every word to the opera (he claims to have memorized it soon after he first saw it at age 10!). And to see the interaction at the end of the opera brought a lump to the throat. I won't spoil what happens, but the ending, and in fact, much of the opera, are, as in the best of Nielsen's music, life affirming. It brings tears of joy.
Maskarade has knockabout comic similarities to the Marriage of Figaro and Falstaff, and Nielsen's voice, if early in his maturity (the Third, Fourth and Fifth Symphonies were to come a bit later) is distinctive. The young cast enters fully into the spirit and vocal demands of the piece. Some highlights include the orchestra music (overture, Act 3 dances), Magdelone's cheeky Act 1 dance scene and folie d'espagne, the magnificent quintet to end Act 1, the touching unmasking in Act 2 and the riotous show within a show in Act 3 (with a jolt of spark and fun similar to the show within a show in Die Fledermaus and Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream).
I am usually not fond of updating scenarios to operas, but this one works splendidly. The color, fun and creativity are most impressive. Kaspar Bech Holten's direction is to be commended.
This is Denmark's national opera, and was premiered in 1906 but amazingly, didn't get performed outside of Scandinavia until 1972 in Minnesota!
There is also apparently a Saul and David from this source, which I highly look forward to.
This production and filming are totally a delight. An easy 5 stars."