Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Poulenc Dialogues des Carmelites |
Actors: Schone, Voulgaridou, Schukoff, Harries, Schwanewilms
Director: Nikolaus Lenhoff
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
Intense drama, superlative production
Keris Nine | 09/06/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Francis Poulenc's 1957 opera, for which he both composed the music and wrote the libretto (from a play by Georges Bernanos), has many distinct and individualistic qualities that set it apart, not least of which is the unique subject matter of the execution of Carmelite nuns by French Revolutionaries in 1794. The treatment however is just as fascinating, the subject of death ominously present not only through the novice nun Blanche's pathological fear of death, through the suffering of ailing Mother Superior and the eventual martyrdom of the nuns, but also in the delicacy of the musical accompaniments that evoke an almost romantic relationship or fascination with the idea of death.
One other notable and unusual aspect of Dialogue des Carmélites is the dominance and importance of female voices, in recitative dialogue and in relation to one another. The opera really is a celebration of the female voice, ranging from soprano to mezzo-soprano and contralto, all used marvellously and, it has to be said, sung magnificently in this production. There are male roles in the opera and they are not insignificant, lending a welcome variety of colour and tone to the overpowering predominance of female singing that could otherwise become a little tiring at such length.
The staging of this Hamburg production is a masterpiece of the minimalist style, well suited to the dark subject matter and achieving incredible intensity and drama mainly from its use of light and shade and some subtle colouration. It's perhaps a little too intense and austere when the opera is more lyrically varied in its score and libretto, but it's true that the sense of death is omnipresent, the questions of faith and life discussed by the nuns all coloured by consideration of death. When combined with the remarkable singing, the power of the denouement is simply shattering. A truly unique opera experience.
The Blu-ray quality is superb, certainly in terms of the audio - an exceptional DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 mix - although, as noted elsewhere, there are issues with the image. Rather than being a flaw with the recording or the transfer, the mosquito noise dots actually seem to be part of the staging, caused by a fine gauze screen at the front of the stage. This is often used in stage productions for light diffusion, but rarely throughout a whole opera. Although it seems a strange decision to film the opera with a screen in-between, it's presumably part of the production design to soften the otherwise harsh direct lighting. The dots are not always noticeable - only when performers are filmed in close-up and when they are towards the front of the stage. There's little here however that spoils the enjoyment of this beautifully staged and fascinating opera."
3 star staging, 4 star performance, 5 star Blu-Ray. Get Mut
D. Altschuler | Los Angeles, CA USA | 08/03/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have more criticisms than the the Australian lead reviewer does, though this fine opera still makes a very good impression here. It is one of the few operas, or even dramas generally, that treat conventional religion maturely and respectfully. Every opera fan should give this opera a chance, and this production will do quite well, though I strongly prefer the Muti DVD.
There are no sets to speak of in this newer production, just lots of blue columns with some imaginative lighting. The only colors you will see anywhere for 166 minutes are blue, white, and grey. This suggests spirituality, possibly, but can be tiresome. The lack of sets, increasingly common in opera these days, screams low budget to me. While the column theme is made movingly clear at the final guillotine scene, it also tried my patience until then.
The final scenes with the 2nd Mother Superior encouraging her flock is very moving, with the nuns looking like prisoners, perhaps even of a Nazi concentration camp.
There is some miscasting, most of it not a deal breaker. Blanche (the lead character) is played by a good singer/actress who is clearly too old for role visually. The Father, on the other hand, looks far too young for his role. The only serious problem is Sister Maria, played by the appropriately named Gabrielle Schnaut. She looks unpleasant and sings even worse, with a strident Soviet-soprano-like tone that had me cringing when she opened her mouth. All other roles are played quite well, both musically and dramatically.
However, the Muti production on TDK is better, sometimes slightly and sometimes significantly so. Muti's Mother Superior is played by Anja Silja who, were this a movie rather than an opera, would be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Opera singers who act really well with the handicap of projecting their voices as they must are marvels; like Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred while going backwards in high heels. The Muti sets are also spare, but not as much as this one.
I cannot compare the sound quality and conducting; I find that with DVDs my attention is fully occupied with the singing, acting, and staging.
Do acquaint yourself with this opera in any production you can find.
Brilliant production with flawed video
Mr. John A. Coulson | Australia | 08/03/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is unusual for an opera to be so true to life as this one is - based on actual tragic events. The singing is very dramatic in keeping with Poulenc's glorious music and the staging is suitably simple, stark and effectively lit.
However the video was not up to the usual unblemished BD quality on the system used here (a Sony player into a recent model Sony 46" TV). The resolution etc was fine but every so often one could see a mosquito net effect on the faces. As this was so inconsistent and switched on and off inbetween shots I can only guess it was a fault in one camera and occurs in the master copy. A pity the production is blemished in this way. I doubt if that could be a fault in my equipment as it is the first time it has been observed.
Although this was composed in the 20th century it is not discordent and has some beautiful moments which can make the hair stand up on the back of the neck. But it might not be everyone's cup of tea, particularly if you are not a fan of the soprano voice because there is very little male singing in this work.
So, highly recommended, with a note of caution. The work itself, the audio quality and the artistry involved are first rate, but the faulty video can be distracting."