Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Le Retour D'Ulysse Dans Sa Patrie - Christie|
Actors: Kresimir Spicer, Marijana Mijanovic, Cyril Auvity, Joseph Cornwell, Bertrand Bontoux
Director: Humphrey Burton
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Musicals & Performing Arts
Monteverdi's story of how Ulysses returned from the Trojan War and found his palace full of young suitors for his wife and kingdom has been well served in video productions, but never better than in this one. Les Arts F... more »
A unique and effective production that puts Monteverdi first
wolfgang731 | 12/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Approximately 20 years ago I saw a production of Ulysses mounted at San Francisco Opera with Thomas Hampson in his debut in the role of Ulisse and Frederica von Stade as Penelope. To say that I was underwhelmed is to put it lightly. That was, without question, the longest evening of musical theatre that I have ever had the misfortune to sit through and I wasn't alone in my displeasure. At intermission, half the house cleared out and those that remained, spent the second half of the performance sleeping or admiring their cuticles. I would have left, too; however, the tickets were a gift from a friend who joined me and I thought it grossly impolite to walk out. Mind you, he was snoring up a storm. It was a dreadful affair: Turgid, old-fashioned and static, it was a lifeless production that put me off to Monteverdi for years. It wasn't until five years later that I saw a first rate production of Poppea that I reassessed my appreciation for the Venetian master's art. I realized then just how vibrant and beautiful these works can be. Of the three extant Monteverdi operas, I've always found Ulisse the least accessible of the lot. It is, for the most part, more interior and subtle, more psychological drama than musical spectacle, but that's not at all a bad thing. This wonderful production from the Aix-en-Provence Festival is a winner on every level. Talk about effective direction and design. A sand covered stage framed on either side by two high walls and a large arched entry upstage is pretty much all there is to the set. Some singers scale the walls, while others ascend from beneath the stage, others still descend from the rafters or stride in through the arched portal. The lighting is effective but unobtrusive, a dramatic device used with great economy. This whole production, for me, was an exercise in restraint. A studied but vital mounting. It thankfully lacked pretense. Too often nowadays, the drama and beauty of opera gets bogged down or lost all together in productions that want to revolutionize the art form regardless of whether the audience feels it needs it or not. Striving to make the works contemporary and relevant, they end up confusing what's important with what's impressive and what is insight with what is manipulation. This production is a perfect example of how you can be relevant and fresh while still respecting the source. It steers clear of the cheap, sensationalistic and the vulgar. Save for some dimly lit and brief nudity in the prologue, there is nothing here to shock. Calixto Bieito this ain't. All of the singers were wonderful, especially Marijana Mijanovic's beautifully delivered Penelope. Her dark hued mezzo was like balm to the ears, rich as molasses and just as sweet. Kresimir Spicer (a name unknown to me) is a dramatically and vocally convincing Ulisse. There was such tenderness in his "Gia Que Sorte e Felice" and Mijanovic responded in kind. I can't think of a remotely weak link in the cast. William Christie's commitment to Monteverdi is both well known and unparalleled and he sure as heck doesn't disappoint here. Wonderful from beginning to end."
Perhaps the Greatest Opera Ever
Richard Stewart | Beaufort, SC USA | 09/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a magnificent, moving, authentic performance of what is arguably the greatest opera ever written. It is music drama as Wagner could only wish making. And I love Wagner. Also, it doesn't hurt that two leading women are stunning. If the prologue with the not-so-goodlooking naked male makes you uncomfortable just go to menu and skip it. This performance is essential for any lover of opera. Buy it and you will watch it again and again. Mr. Gregson says it very well."
Did Opera Decline after Monteverdi?
David E. Gregson | San Diego, CA USA | 02/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a long, long, long-time opera lover with shelves groaning with LPs, CDs, DVDs and even some 78s, I often wonder if the art form declined almost immediately after its brilliant beginnings in the sublime works of Claudio Monteverdi. If the original idea of opera was to emulate ancient Greek tragedy -- a deeply serious and elevated form of drama in which music and chant served to intensify the meaning and emotional force of the poetic text -- Monteverdi's achievement seems truer to that aesthetic model than almost everything that followed up until Wagner! Monteverdi's sensitivity to the word and his feeling for the humanity of his characters is astounding -- and his operas are profound and very, very beautiful. Of course, the fact that he and his terrific librettist for "Il ritorno" (Giacomo Badoaro) do not strictly adhere to the so-called Aristotelian unities (of time, space, and action) is hardly Greek: "Il ritorno," with its variety of "high and low" characters and its mixture of comedy and tragedy, reflects the sort of Renaissance ideal we see at its flowery best in Shakespeare. So we're still in good company.
Wonderful and terrible at the same time is the fact that "Il ritorno" exists only in fragmented form -- and we do not even know for certain what instruments were intended for the orchestra. That means every time we see or hear "Il ritorno," it is virtually a new work! Scenes come and go, and instrumentation changes according to the whim and/or deep research of the conductor/editor. I adore what Raymond Leppard did with it (and you can still get that version in an old taped-for-TV Glyndebourne release containing a heartbreaking performance of Penelope by the glorious Dame Janet Baker). But William Christie and Les Arts Florissants are the superb early music purists du jour, and I love almost all his DVD stuff, even when the stage direction is total madness -- and sometimes utterly awful as in the multi-media circus of Rameau's "Les Paladins" on Opus Arte (a sort of perverse must-have item).
Anyhow, this disc is just wonderful - and although there is much to quibble about in many of the staging choices - it delivers an emotional wallop. Like most viewer-listeners, I like this bit, then hate that. But I would not be without this DVD! I wish it were on Blu-ray.
As far as the plentiful competition for this "Il ritorno" is concerned, all the discs at Amazon have something wonderful to offer. Too bad the fun, super-souped-up Hans Werner Henze version is going for absurdly high prices -- $75 and way up -- from private sellers.
Renato Sau Rios | Santos , SP BRASIL | 01/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"LAF and William Christie always perform very good .
Marvellous staging and singers !!!!"