Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Robert Schumann - Genoveva |
Actors: Juliane Banse, Shawn Mathey, Alfred Muff, Martin Gantner, Cornelia Kallisch
Director: Martin Kusej
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
H. W. A. Leeuwen | Voorschoten, Netherlands | 09/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen this production live at the Zurich opera house february 2008.
Musically, people tend to think of Schumann as the composer of small miniatures. As a result, he is not easily associated with larger orchestral works such as Szenen aus Goethe`s Faust and the genre of opera. These works are therefore unfortunately hardly ever performed. When I heard that Mr. Harnoncourt wanted to do a scenic production of this opera and that it has been a 15-year old wish of his to do so I did not hesitate and drove the 600+ miles to Zurich to see this production twice.
Harnoncourt is a strong advocate of Schumann`s music and has been for a number of years. An older ecording of Genoveva with him is available on cd. This performance is completely different, though. Contrasts are much sharper, musical lines longer, tension more evident. What really stands out is the richness of the orchestral sound. The performance makes it evident that Scumann is a great composer, not only of miniatures but also, perhaps especially, of great vocal works. Every detail is audible in the orcestra as well as the chorus, singers stand out when the score calls for it and blend when this is indicated. What beautifull music! Why is this piece never ever performed?! And how is it possible that an almost 80 year old Harnoncourt still treads new ground in choice as well as performance? It is incredible how he takes you by the scruff of the neck, as it were, and forces you to see what a complete musical genius Schumann really is..
The music as well as the story has a sort of `holiness`to it that reminds me of the great oratoria sich as Haydn`s Creation, for example. In this respect Schumann breaks new ground with this opera. It is almost as though he wants to focus on the inner drama of the characters, much more than on dramatic development in the story itself.
Martin Kusej (stage director) has used this aspect to create a psycho-trip. In his rendition we see the story unfold through Golo`s eyes, the eyes of a warped mind. To do so, a box has been erected on-stage, in which most of the handling takes place. The box is completely white inside and only holds a chair, a mirror and a wash-stand. I tend to think that what takes place out of this box, which is open only at the front, is the only part of the action in which we do NOT look into the mind of Golo. The effect is overwhelming allthough I must admit that if you do not know the opera it can be extremely confusing. Some details I still do not understand. There is a scene for example where a female chorus sings to a mute, nude Genoveva. They are dressed as nurses and hold raw fishes in their hands. Halfway the chorus the fish are thrown to the nude Genoveva who as a result stands in a pile of fish. What does this mean? It takes place out of the bos and therefore not in Golo`s mind. I should be able to understand it but am at a loss. Kusej loses his audience there.
The singers are excellent. I belive that they are all part of the regular group of the zurich opera house but am not sure. Alfred Muff stands out, as allways, for his extremely dramatic performance. Particularly where he stands on the wash stand of Genoveva`s prison cell as the sink gives back blood.. Ruben Drole sings excellently allthough his parts are restricted to the opening and the final scene. That one will grow very large in my opinion, so young and allready so excellent. Juliane Banse a very convincing Genoveva. The chorus should be mentioned here as well, very tight, disciplined and dramatic to the extreme at the same time.
Martin Gantner should also be mentioned here. I did not know him before. What a beautifull, rounded voice. Excellently sung.
One negative point: Felix Breisach did not do a good job cutting for the screen. As mentioned before, the box on stage is very important as it suggests that action takes place outside of reality. On the dvd this does not become clear because of the many, way too many close ups that are made. In my opinion, the overview is relevant. The cutting does not give you that. I believe that Martin Kusej knows exactly what he wants to show and how it looks when you sit in the theatre. It is a great pity that this is not captured in the cutting. Obviously, Breisach has not understood the stage direction.
For me this opera was one of the greatest musical experiences of the last 10 years and I am really glad that it will now be brought out on dvd. If you want to hear beautifull music performed at its best, get it! If you are looking for a modern staging that will hold a mirror in front of you and may very well change you, get it! If you like classical performances and traditional costumes on stage, this adventurous production is not for you."
Eurotrash strikes again!
Murray Rosenthal | Los Angeles, CA | 01/30/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD was a tremendous disappointment.
I knew that Harnoncourt has been an advocate for "Genoveva" for years, and I was really looking forward to seeing and hearing the opera. I found the music attractive, even moving. The plot stretched credibility, but no more so than "Norma" or "Il Trovatore," both of which I have seen repeatedly and love.
I found the performance superior musically, but I suspect that Harnoncourt's tempi, which have generally slowed in the past few years, were too slow to present the opera at its best.
The staging, however, was a major disappointment. It was Eurotrash at its very worst. Medieval knights and peasants were garbed in Edwardian(?)dress. Most of the performance took place in a white box with only a chair, a sink, and a mirror. All the major characters stood on the chair at one time or other, and most of them hid behind it from time to time. They also stood on the sink, and Genoveva climbed into and out of it several times while the libretto said that she was being forced by peasant captors to struggle up hill. Characters who left the scene, according to the libretto, often simply remained in the box and looked bored. And then there was the chorus throwing fish at a nude Genoveva--whatever that meant.
I found the staging almost unwatchable, and had great difficulty sitting through the entire opera. I certainly was not going to sit through it again, and immediately sold it back to the store from which it was purchased. If you're curious about "Genoveva" rent or borrow the DVD, but don't buy it."
John F. Cahill | 02/07/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I agree with the reviewer who called it EUROTRASH. Absolulely true. I can't add anything to what was written about this production. What a shame that such productions are staged. I have a list of names of stage directors I avoid in any DVD that comes out. I won't go to see their productions in the opera house either. Some day I would like to see a production of a classical themed opera (such as Orpheus and Euridice) that actually had appropriate sets and costumes representative of the time period of the story. Avoid this DVD at all costs. I bought it and regret the purchase."
F. FUNES | WHITE PLAINS,NEW YORK | 05/14/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I absolutely agree with the previous reviewers,specially with Mr.Cahill.
This DVD is pathetic and why would someone watch it or go see the production at the opera house is beyond my reckoning...
I would love to see his list of "banned" stage directors,since I likewise
have one and we probably coinicide.
If you want to appreciate GENOVEVA get the audio MASUR set on BERLIN CLASSICS,.That is "THE GENOVEVA."