Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Martinu - The Greek Passion|
Actors: Charles Mackerras, Helen Field, John Mitchinson, John Tomlinson, Geoffrey Moses
Director: Thomas Simerda
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
A beautiful film of a 20th century masterpiece
Richard | Minneapolis, Mongolia | 12/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film was made for Czech TV. They used the soundtrack of the CD with the Welsh National Opera conducted by Charles McKerras. Because of TV timing they had to shave 25 minutes off the timing. In the end they didn't do too much damage. But what about this piece? If you don't know Martinu you owe it to yourself to get acquainted. He is easy to take - kind of a parallel to his fellow Czech Janacek. And he has a distinctive sound - rich and resonant. He writes wonderfully for the voice. The opera is based on Nikos Kazantzakis' novel He Who Must Die. It concerns a small Greek village where each year the people re-enact the Passion of Christ. This year those chosen to play Jesus, the disciples and Mary Magdalen get caught up in their roles. What if you take the gospel really seriously? Well that doesn't go over with the authorities including the priest and once more Christ is crucified. It is a deeply moving and beautiful opera that gains much from this video. And surprisingly it was written in English so it is especially powerful for us."
Archie | Ottawa ON Canada | 01/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been a long-standing admirer of Petr Weigl's opera productions, particularly "Eugene Onegin", "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk", and "Werther", which are still available. He used existing studio recordings, found accurate locations, and used actors who looked the parts who sang on set to minimise the problems of lip-synching. I feel that he has taken the drama of opera to a whole new level.
Tomas Simerda has directed a superb production of "The Greek Passion" is the same tradition. He used a recording with soloists from the Welsh National (plus John Tomlinson) and the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. The locations are most fitting, and the casting is bang on.
This is the only work by Martinu that I have heard. He has the reputation of being a very prolific and facile composer whose musical gems are hard to find in the midst of so much that is not all that great. There is an anecdote about him wherein he composed a complex work for piano trio and string orchestra, lost the score. and then bashed off another in 12 days to meet the deadline. When the original was found, it turned out to be completely different.
"The Greek Passion" demonstrates this. This production is the second opera inspired by the novel Christ Recrucified by Nikos Kazantzakis. The first proved to be too difficult to stage. This version has little in common with the first, and was composed at the end of Martinu's life. It has been said that Martinu came into his own as a composer in the later stage of his life, and that if he is to be remembered for anything, it will be for his six symphonies and this opera written during this period. The music is very evocative, lyrical and accessibly diatonic. It has certainly made me want to hear more by him.
The opera deals with how the casting of parts in a Passion Play changes the people involved and leads to the recreation of Christ's Passion. The fulcrum is the arrival of the starving survivors of a Greek village destroyed by the Turks who plead for sanctuary and succor. The priest of the first village rejects them. But the one chosen to be Christ and his disciples get involved. The Christ character becomes increasingly spiritual, attracts and changes many of the villagers, is denounced by the Judas character to the priest who sees him as a threat to his own authority and who in the last act excommunicates him and calls for his death. At the end, he is in fact killed by Judas in front of the church, between the people of the two villages who are hostile to each other. Judas skulks off; the priest retreats and locks himself in the church; the villagers ask for forgiveness and promise to follow the will of God; and the music ends with acceptance and peace.
This production is, for me at any rate, a very unexpected delight. The whole thing hangs together extremely well, and is excellently done in all aspects. Very very satisfying."