Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Cyril Auvity, Sonia Prina, Dietrich Henschel, Xavier Sabata, Luigi De Donato
Directors: Pier Luigi Pizzi, Matteo Ricchetti
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
Visually perplexing, musically inspired
wolfgang731 | 12/02/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I want to apologize, in advance, for this lengthy review. I normally try to keep things a bit more concise but I have several issues with the production and I'm hoping someone far more erudite than myself will help me out. That said, there's always a great many positive things to be said about any project that involves William Christie and this is certainly no exception. This production of Monterverdi's L'Orfeo (a co-production between Teatro Real Madrid and La Fenice) is in many ways typical of the metamorphosis (some might say decimation) baroque opera is currently experiencing around the world but mainly in Europe; productions somewhat ambiguous as to what they ultimately wish to be. I'll break down the review into two sections: Production and performance. With respect to the former - there are some aspects that work rather well, including a very dramatic opening of the Prologue, with the entire set rising up from the center of the stage; a deliberately paced ascent accompanied by the rolling of drums, then the soft, warm glow of torches bathing everything around it in orange. Like a mammoth dollhouse, the set expands and unfolds, revealing staircases and arched corridors, and we find ourselves in an elegant courtyard (supposedly the Ducal Palace of Mantua), Les Sacqueboutiers de Toulouse center stage playing the Toccata that serves as the prelude to the opera. Musica enters and the spectacle begins and it does so in fine fashion. The costumes are an elegant but simple variation of 17th century interpretation of ancient Greek attire; not overly fussy with garments in solid colors and everyone barefoot. The orchestra, including Christie, in turn, are dressed in late 16th, early 17th century attire. Dark colors and ruffled collars. I loved the contrast and it certainly created a sense of time and place. The orchestra is visible throughout the entire performance and was something that I felt worked very well, indeed. I'm not familiar with the Teatro Real's stage, so I'm not certain if the stage was divided in two, with the rear portion elevated to create the illusion or if the orchestra pit was simply raised, not that it even matters. It was a clever concept that paid off in spades. So far, so good. This is the case for the first two acts. Acts 3, 4 and 5 take on a more contemporary feel that left me somewhat perplexed. Orfeo descends into the underworld to try to win back his beloved Euridice. Everyone is now dressed in contemporary black attire (orchestra included). In fact, Orfeo looks like he's been dressed by Ermenegildo Zegna; however, still barefooted. Odd but no biggie. Caronte stands atop not a barge, ferry or other water vessel but rather a large wagon, pale bodies surrounding him and propping himself up with, guess what, an oar! It's an illogical step in direction. Caronte departs and the spirits enter and they're covered in sheer white sheets from head to toe. It's jarring not to mention a bit comical. There's some choreography involved but it doesn't amount to much. No doubt both director and designer were striving for innovation but what they ended up with was really something so uninspired that it verged on the insipid. Enter Pluto and Proserpina, the former atop a four poster bed and the latter joins him soon thereafter. Mythology tells us they're married but what's the purpose of the bed? Is it to emphasize the human in the divine and imply that theirs is a relationship with a carnal aspect? Perhaps, who knows but I found it another useless dramatic device. Needless to state that among the spirits is Euridice and when Orfeo reneges on his promise to Proserpina and pulls off the veil to reveal his beloved, it's so anticlimactic that it renders the moment downright dull. The final act finds us back at the Mantuan court, with Apollo, in modified period costume, asking his son, Orfeo, to join him in blessed, immortal life in Heaven. The opera ends with much rejoicing with the chorus and dancers jumping about barefooted in their fitting black garments. There are even a couple of dancers who attempt to channel the late, great MJ and moonwalk across the stage (rather poorly mind you), more reveling and then the stage goes black. When it was over, I didn't know what to think. I wasn't even sure of what it was I had seen. I don't mind modern dress productions of baroque operas (or any opera for that matter) but this seemed to want to straddle both the conservative and the modern without doing justice to either. It over reached and didn't really say much. Now on to the performances. Absolutely no complaints. Christie's direction was taut, dramatic and wholly convincing. It was elegant and controlled. His love of and respect for the score was evident at every moment and his band, Les Arts Florissants, responded accordingly. Dietrich Henschel's Orfeo was a thing of dignified beauty. He knows this character well and seemingly sympathizes with him. The same is true of Maria Grazia Schiavo's Euridice (and Proserpina/Musica). Sonia Prima's facial expression can seem a bit overwrought but her dramatic instincts and vocal delivery were wonderful. Luigi di Donato's Caronte was a bit a on the light side and therefore lacking in menace but he delivered a nuanced and elegant performance as Caronte. Agustin Prunell-Friend's Apollo is a work in progress. Though musically correct, it was a somewhat insecure voice lacking in focus and refinement. The Pluto of Antonio Abete was of the tried and true variety considering that he sang mostly prostrate. The minor roles were sung beautifully. Special mention goes to countertenors Xavier Sabata and Cyril Auvity, who were excellent. The chorus was spot on and was hampered only at times by the ill conceived costumes and direction of Pier Luigi Pizzi. From a musical perspective, this L'Orfeo is very special, indeed; however, from a visual point of view, it's a mixed bag of equal parts of good and bad. I don't think anyone will take offense to Mr. Pizzi's ideas but I also don't think he has done much to elevate the work to new heights."
Poor Singing,Poor Orfeo
Guntram | PR,Brazil | 12/15/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Just a different opinion here;concerning to singing this production is really disapointing in comparison to others Orfeos options available.Henschel,a singer I always like a lot,great singing from Bach to Strauss,gives here a really rough and unpleasant leader role`s portrait;no poetry or delicacy at all,just a huge deception to watch his gross performance.That Messagiera is a so completely terrible actress that seems to me a old fashioned soap opera TV decaying lady since her very first bars to time she leaves the stage;it was such a relief that Monteverdi stopped the part at that point but unfortunally her poor sense of taste returns like La Speranza;however I agree her singing works better here since mezzos can be more impressive than countertenors on this part.Proserpina/Musica has a childish voice to compete to powerful Bernarda Fink or even Juanita Lascarro on previous dvds.Despite all this weak cast,it was a huge pleasure to eyes and ears to see the musicians most of time on this production;I enjoy and loved that a lot.Set and costumes are just ok(beautiful Caronte`s boat),except that so poor Apolo;maybe financial crisis ruined Madri Royal Theatre;no shoes and a beggar`s red bath towel just to the God of the Sun,the worse Apolo voice I ever heard.IMHO,in case you are looking for a first class Orfeo,you must to go to John Mark Ainsley/Netherlands Opera,best rendition so far,or the older Harnoncourt`s lavish production."