Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Isaac Albeniz - Merlin / Wilson-Johnson Skelton Marton Vaness Odena Eusebio |
Teatro Real Madrid 2004
Actors: David Wilson-Johnson, Carol Vaness, Eva Marton
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
This DVD records the Teatro Real?s unearthing of a living treasure ? the world premiere of Albéniz? Merlin, an unperformed and virtually unknown work of genuine power. Many believed the score was lost, until the conductor ... more »
A good looking production but you will need the subtitles
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 05/20/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Back in the last decade of the 1800s, a rich man's son named Francis Burdett Money-Coutts (Coutts is mentioned in "The Gondoliers" as bankers) decided to write the librettos to a trilogy that would do for England what Wagner's Ring cycle had done for Germany. He chose the story of King Arthur and wrote the librettos for "Merlin," "Lancelot" and "Guenevere." The composer who accepted the challenge was Isaac Albeniz, known mostly today for his piano music and only recently given respectful attention by Spanish musicologists. Well, the music for the latter two is still lost, but conductor Jose de Eusebio made it the task of many years to restore "Merlin" and at long last we have a DVD recording on the BBC Opus Arte label (OA 0888 D) of a complete performance given at the Teatro Real de Madrid. First of all, the text is in English, but you will understand very little of it without using the subtitle feature (in English, German, Spanish, or French). Sopranos are notoriously difficult to understand in any language (so much do they love vowels at the often total expense of consonants), and casting Eva Marton as Morgan le Fey makes even her vowels fairly incomprehensible. The Nivian of Carol Vaness is a touch better. As often happens, the men fare better on the enunciation side. David Wilson-Johnson (Merlin) and Stuart Skelton (Arthur) are not exactly exemplary, but at least half the words come across.
Several of the choruses are off-stage, so understanding the words is out of the question; those choruses sung onstage are little better. Still the singing is of a high quality, so back to the subtitles! On the acting side, there is little to recommend. Nowhere do I see any depth of characterization; but these are standard mythological and legendary (yes, there is a difference) creatures. Angel Odena plays the evil Mordred looking too much like *** of the Monty Python group in the Spanish Inquisition sketch to elicit anything but a smile; but Vaness nearly makes a believable character as the Ariel-like slave of Merlin who turns to Morgan for her freedom. Marton's acting is of silent-film vintage. Interestingly, the characters of Lancelot and Guenevere show up only as dancers in this opera. The sets and costumes are minimal and symbolic, the costumes fetching. Much of the opera is given over to ballet and the opening to Act III is stunning. Most of the solo singing is of the post-Wagner declamation genre but without the wonderful use of leitmotif that Wagner used as the basis of his scores. Only in a chorus or two will you find any melody. But all in all, with the video aspect, the music takes on a timeless quality that seems right for the action on stage. For once, some of the bonus material is very informative, namely the interview with the conductor concerning the work, Albeniz, and the problems of reconstructing the music. What Marton and Wilson-Johnson have to say is of less interest. Two serious complaints. How many "live" performance DVDs must be issued before some engineer copes with the problem of acoustically dead spots on stage? And when will so many editors of the program notes stop using white print against grey textured backgrounds? I found the Merlin booklet practically unreadable and sent yet another e-mail to BBC about this. They never do answer. On two DVD discs, the opera runs about 155 minutes. The picture is wide screen (16:9 ratio)"
After a Hundred Years' Wait
Joseph L. Ponessa | Glendive MT USA | 04/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Alb?niz' opera MERLIN was never staged until 28 May 2003, a full century after he wrote it. I attended the ninth and last performance of the premiere run at the Teatro Real in Madrid, on the 12th of June 2003. The libretto is in English (which the cast pronounce correctly), the music is somewhat Wagnerian but incorporates fragments of Gregorian chant in a very interesting way, and the staging is quite impressive. See the review by Roberto Herrscher in the Opera News of August 2003, page 59.-- Since I sat up in the gallery, I didn't have a very good view of the stage. The up-close camera work on the DVD is giving me a better picture of the production than I had live in the theater!"
Richard M. Teeter | Walnut Creek, CA USA | 10/18/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I like the piano and guitar music of Albeniz, and I have a very large collection of videos, music, and, primarily, books on the subject of King Arthur, so I leapt at the chance to buy "Merlin". Unfortunately I bought it directly from the producer rather than Amazon so it cost me almost twice the Amazon price. I'm afraid it wasn't worth it. Other reviewers have complained about Eva Marton's vibrato. Vibrato is supposed to aid the singer in establishing an accurate pitch. In this case, that vibrato was so overwhelming it made it very difficult to discern the pitch. The opening scene was spactacular, as were most of the rest of the sets. The lighting was also first rate. I thought the costumes of the knights to be ridiculous. I am glad I have this performance on DVD, but primarily because it extends my collection of Arthuriana. Having looked at and listened to it once, I expect it to just sit on the shelf, untouched, for a very long time."
A great cast, except for the leading female role.
Precipitatissimo | Sioux Falls, SD, USA | 02/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Eva Marton used to be a great singer. During the filming of Merlin, however, she demonstrates the perils of remaining before the public too long. Her voice, now with a shrill, penetrating quality more appropriate to a dentist's drill, and a vibrato so wide that the entire round table could be moved through it, has long since passed any reason for continuing to be recorded. However, with this recording, she does provide something of a comic relief: such stupendously bad singing can be wonderfully entertaining. She is the single misstep in the cast if your premise is that all the singers in such a production should be good ones. If, however, you stipulate that an unattractive and vengeful character might usefully be sung by a voice so unattractive that it is humorous, then you find an entirely new dimension to the recording. Either way, Merlin is a wonderful addition to the operatic repertoire and this recording is very good."