Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Rameau - Zoroastre|
Actors: Christophe Rousset, Anders J. Dahlin, Anna Maria Panzarella, Sine Bundgaard, Les Talens Lyriques
Director: Pierre Audi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
T. C. | 05/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Zoroastre was the fourth of Rameau's tragédies en musique that was staged, but the 1749 audiences were not especially enthusiastic about the opera, so Rameau and his librettist Louis de Cahusac reworked it completely, and in this revised version it was stages successfully in Paris on 19 January 1756. The revised 1756 version is the one heard today.
The opera takes place in the ancient kingdom of Bactria (old Persia) and is about the struggle between good and evil. The good are led by Zoroastre (Zarathustra), the "founder of the Magi", which is a devotee of Ahura Mazda (the Supreme Being) and the evil, led by the sorcerer Abramane, a servant of Ahriman (the Spirit of Evil).
The opera opens, with Bactria in chaos after the death of the king. The King had two daughters: Amélite, which is the rightful heir, and the evil Erinice. They are both in love with Zoroastre, who loves Amélite. After a lot of singing and dancing (5 acts) the Good is triumphant: Zoroastre and Amélite are the new King and Queen. Erinice is now repentant and Abramane defeated.
The new Opus Arte DVD offers an excellent performance of the opera, both visually and musically. Christophe Rousset, who also plays the harpsichord, leads expertly the HIP forces. The singers are very good.
Lis, the title role is Zoroastre, which was written for an haute-contre (a high French tenor). Mark Padmore was scheduled to sing the part, but it is sung here by the young Swedish tenor Anders J Dahlin. He has a very beautiful and flexible voice, which enables him to cope very well with several elaborated coloratura passages. The Evil main character, the sorcerer Abramane, is sung by baritone Evgueniy Alexiev. What a voice. He is outstanding.
From the ladies, one should mention first Anna Maria Panzarella, a Rameau specialist, singing very impressively in the role of the evil sister, Erinice (She recorded this role in the 2003 Erato recording that is conducted by William Christie). Sine Bundgaard sings Amélite. I was less impressed with her singing in the beginning, but than she improves, and in the end, she is very good. All the other singers are excellent, and one must mention the very tall bass Lars Arvidson singing and acting outstandingly as both Zopire and La Vengeance.
This is a typical Pierre Audi production, very suitable for the dark nature of the opera. And there are some very original dances that were created by Amir Hosseinpour. The opera lasts 156 minutes. All the rest of the DVD playing time is a documentary about the production, which has very interesting remarks from conductor Christophe Rousset about the novelty and originality of Rameau's music.
To sum up: This is a beautiful Rameau opera filed with exquisite music. I can highly recommend this set to anyone who is interested in the French baroque opera.
Sub-Par Singing from the Men Undermines Excellent Staging an
Terry Serres | Minneapolis, MN United States | 07/22/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I am an avid devotee of the operas of Rameau, but not so purist that my standards are impossibly high. However, I must say this is the first Rameau on DVD that I cannot recommend. The staging and design are excellent (though the camera angles from the rafters and the wings are rather annoying), the dancing is inventive and precise, and Rousset's conducting is electric. But the singing and acting, especially on the part of the men in the cast, spoiled my enjoyment.
As Zoroastre, Anders Dahlin sports the most aspirated passage work I have ever encountered in a professional singer, and a generally feeble tone. Lack of fluidity, muddied tone, and occasionally wayward pitch indeed afflict most of the male singers. Although it is unreasonable to expect perfect French diction from non-native singers, there is a certain alertness to how Rameau uses the rhythm of the language that must be achieved for the vocal writing to display its full vibrancy. That skill is roundly lacking here. Lars Arvidson as Zopire and La Vengeance has a beautiful orotund tone but quite the strangest French accent I have ever encountered. Furthermore, the men's acting is dreadfully overdone, brimming with scowls and sneers and diabolical laughter. Another weakness is the similarity in tone among three of the four lowest voices. Added to this is the effete appearance and manner of the two male rivals and it's hard to get swept away by the intensity of the operatic goings-on.
Mercifully, the women are much more accomplished. Of course, Anna Maria Panzarella is superb, being an alumna of many Christie productions. As the villainess Érinice she exhibits a fire that her past roles only hinted at. Sine Bundgaard as her rival Amélite is convincing as well, and Ditte Andersen too deserves praise in the comprimaria role of Céphie. All offer excellent French, Bundgaard faltering only in the rapid passages. All the women, too, bring far greater subtlety to their portrayals than do the men.
Rousset wields his baton bracingly -- his sound is perhaps too brittle and metallic for my taste, but his leadership of the Drottningholm forces is focused and forceful, and his style befits the opera's themes.
Again, I am not militant in demanding perfect French, but the singers must be attuned to Rameau's sometimes intricate rhythms. In their vocal and linguistic limitations, the men in this production fall too short of the mark to do justice to the majesty of Rameau's music.
With two vibrant recordings on disk, by Christie and Kuijken, there is no need to waste one's time on this DVD.
Post Script. I know that negative reviews are never popular, but I feel somewhat vindicated by seeing the Gramophone reviewer making similar observations in the latest issue. Although he was rather less tolerant of the dancing than was I."
A very satisfying Zoroastre
Steven Guy | Croydon, South Australia | 08/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Considering how few Rameau operas are available on DVD, it is good to see this one come out. I've had it for about a year now and I've returned to it many times. The staging is dark, but effective. My only complaint it the occasional overhead camera angle - however, this may please some viewers. The main quartet of singers are generally very good. The women are, perhaps, a little stronger than the men, but that is a minor quibble for me.
The orchestra uses the earlier version of the opera, without clarinets. However, the orchestral sound is excellent and Rousset brings out the inner rhetoric of even the most apparently prosaic musical phrase.
Lovers of Rameau need not hesitate. I only wish that William Christie's Les Arts Florissants production of the work, available on CD, had also been committed to film.
I look forward to Christophe Rousset's DVD recording of Rameau's "Castor et Pollux", also on the Opus Arte label, due in October this year."
Both surprising and disappointing
Shubert Somer | Winston Salem, NC United States | 12/29/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is above all a period performance - period instruments, period costume, and performed on one of the few remaining period stages with its original period machinery. The musical performance is quite acceptable for all but the sternest critics, and, combined with the unique setting, makes this well worth watching, or shall I say "experiencing".
Now for the bad stuff. It is a French production, and the French have a different sensibility when it comes to camera work. There are constant angle shifts to shots from back stage and the rafters, odd close ups, and Cirque du Soleil-esque slow-motion passes. How odd, in particular, to add these effects to a period performance! How nice it would have been to experience the opera as closely as possible to how a period audience would have seen it... Helas!
The dancing probably was full of anachronisms, but was quite thought provoking. The sound seems to have been re-recorded. Sometimes there is no sense of location or sonic space, and the voice quality remains constant regardless of how the singers are facing, then other times it seems quite live. The bizarro camera work does not help.
All in all, a great opportunity to see how Baroque operas were put together on stage (the scene changes in particular were magical, primarily due to the stage machinery and the lighting)."