Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Diego Matamoros, Barbara Frittoli, Lado Ataneli, Ketevan Kemoklidze, Alessandro Liberatore
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Arthaus Musik Tha´s opera by Massenet DVD
E. S. Wilks | Hockessin, DE USA | 09/15/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This Arthaus Musik DVD production is of a 2008 live performance in Torino. During the performance, the audience keeps remarkably silent, with minimal coughing. Massenet called this opera a lyrical comedy, which is a misnomer - there's nothing even faintly amusing about it. To me, the opera's key point is irony; the monk Athanael persuades the courtesan Thais to abandon her 'sinful' life and seek redemption; meanwhile, he succumbs to earthly desires by falling in love with her.
The aural component - beautiful music - is at odds with this visual presentation, which includes many semi- or nearly-naked people leaping, gyrating, or writhing around the stage to represent - what? If you like futuristic sets with generous helpings of surrealism and/or symbolism, this production will probably please you. Symbolism is acceptable if one understands the point; if not, one is left perplexed, even irritated. Thus, in Act 1 scene 1; the camera zooms out to show the monks on an upper level and a completely different setting below, which represents - what? All of this was wasted on me; I would have preferred sets in keeping with the opera's time period - fourth century AD - without the symbolism.
The cast overall is a strong one; Lado Ataneli (Athanael) and Barbara Frittoli (Thais) deliver powerful performances, though I found Frittoli's prominent vibrato, especially on some high notes, very distracting. In Act 3, she is dressed in white - depicting, perhaps, her deliverance from sin - which is at odds with her low-necked, very revealing dress. The supporting cast all deliver sound performances."
Sensuous production, weak Tha´s
Jesse G. Kalin | Poughkeepsie, NY | 09/12/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Poda's production is a modified form of Robert Wilson's gestural theater; movement of principal singers is stylised, very slow, against an elaborately staged, symbolic background, but lavishly costumed. One either likes this or doesn't. (What happens in the language often isn't reflected on stage: e.g., Athanael doesn't get a new robe--that's part of the sryle.) There is a large contemporary dance component throughout, often largely unclothed, often effective, and much more animated. Ateneli is in excellent voice, but the production's great weakness is Frittoli's Thaïs--her voice is often harsh, wobbly, and strained. None of the warmth or sensuality of Fleming. The orchestra and sound fabric is very fine. (And note the shots of the interior of the new opera house in Turin glimpsed at the beginning--stunning.) Secondary material missing; an interview with Poda seems essential."
A Disappointing Production, Some Wonderful Singing
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 08/30/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"[Caveat: This review was written for the non-Blu-Ray DVD of this opera. I cannot comment about the differences between it and this Blu-Ray version.]
Stefano Poda's production of Thaïs at the Teatro Regio of Turin is lushly staged, with rich costumes, impressive sets, interesting lighting. But the production itself falls flat, largely because this opera, whose story centers on the beguiling allure and fleshly attractions of its title character, does not emphasize that aspect of the story. Rather Poda seems to be going for something more philosophically profound than a story of sin overcome by religious conversion. We get the conversion without much evidence of the sin. (Where is Carol Neblett's scandalously unclad San Francisco Opera Thaïs when we need her?) First of all, Barbara Frittoli, quite a physically attractive soprano, is given little to do to make use of her innate beauty. Rather, she and the other prostitutes are clothed in black floor-length gowns which completely cover their bodies and lend little to the notion that she and they are physically irresistible. The whole production involves characters moving with marmoreal slowness and interacting little with each other, and there is some evidence to suggest that they don't understand the contents of the libretto. For instance, when Athanaël, the Cenobite monk, is, according to the text, being dressed more appropriately for the party at his friend Nicias's house, he doesn't change his attire or his appearance. The whole production comes across more as a staged oratorio. That plays up the religious aspects of the story but it makes Thaïs's ultimate religious conversion seem unsurprising rather than shocking.
Barbara Frittoli sings beautifully. Her spinto voice has many colors and she uses them skillfully. Indeed it is her musical participation that contributes most to whatever satisfaction one derives from the production. The Georgian bass-baritone, Lado Ataneli, certainly looks the part but his performance is rather colorless and uninflected; there is little passion in the last act. (One is struck that Ataneli's surname is so similar to that of his character, Athanäel. I wonder if that has anything to do with his having learned the part?) Tenor Alessandro Liberatore sings a fine Nicias. Choreography was also by Poda and it was both dull and intrusive; for instance, the score clearly indicates that the famous 'Meditation', marked 'religious', is to be played in front of the curtain. Instead the stage is filled with dancers doing nothing special nor specially religious. Gianandrea Noseda is in the pit and leads a slowish but nicely nuanced performance.
I have not seen the DVD of Thaïs starring Eva Mei, a soprano whose acidulous voice I cannot endure; I gather that production has not been much admired by others. And as far as I know that one and this production are the only DVDs of Thaïs available. In the meantime stick with the audio recording of the opera with Renée Fleming and Thomas Hampson, and hope that the Met's fine production of 2008 (with Fleming) makes it to DVD.
Total time: 139mins; Sound: PCM stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1; Subtitles: French, English, German, Italian, Spanish; Format: 16:9; Region code: 0 (worldwide)
A highly original interpretation that requires rethinking ab
Bryan Leech | Melbourne, VIC, Australia | 06/07/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Most of us come from a background where our main experience of opera is the sound, via CD. Going to live opera is expensive. Obviously the composer wrote the work as an opera because it was intended to be seen - the visual component, the acting and the total concept of the production sharing equal importance with the music. If you are assessing an opera, you must consider the production in its totality, and not consider a production to be superior because the lead singer has a slightly better voice. Is the production designed to be a vehicle for the famous lead singer, or is it designed and performed as an attempt to provide a valid, unified interpretation of the work as a whole, in all its aspects?
Massenet was a much more original composer than is usually realized. When it comes to "Thais", it is usually treated as just another opera. But it isn't. Put simply, it is a morality work concerning the fight between good and evil. And being more cerebral, it presents problems to a director who can only think in terms of conventional opera, as it is essentially very static and can be seen as far from the usual concept of an opera.
This production takes a very different approach to that given to most operas, with a result that is an essentially abstract presentation of its basic theme. The director has presented something that is not really opera in the usual sense, and created a work of art, with Thais, enslaved to the demands of the flesh, living in a depraved world, represented by a mass of near-naked, writhing bodies. The stage rises to reveal the hell toward which she is heading. We see the angels in the heaven toward which the male lead, Athaniel is trying to save her. In this interpretation of the work, the literal story is abandoned, the essential conflict between good and evil being the theme. I compare this aspect to Wagner's Ring cycle, where the "story" is a vehicle for a philosophical drama underneath, so lending it to a wide range of interpretations - in Wagner's case, the "top" story usually being given little if any attention.
This "Thais" is almost entirely choreographed with very slow, precisely controlled motion. To me, the result could be likened to a constantly moving tableau, presenting something new (to me at least) that really worked, once you realized the nature of what was being presented. A great deal of money was put into this production, with expensive sets and costumes; a very elaborate lighting design, and countless hours of rehearsal. The empty stage (primarily in one scene) symbolized the emptiness of Thais' life. Most of the time space is needed for all the slowly moving bodies - dancers, chorus and supers. This is one of the most creative and unified productions of a music drama (referred to in the French traditionally as a comic opera as no-one dies) I have ever seen. I suspect the more negative reviewers didn't understand what they were seeing. After this, I could never consider the work interpreted as just another opera.
Which leaves the performers. Barbara Fritolli presents a magnificent interpretation of the lead within the context of the production. There might be slightly better voices in the role, but her singing is still excellent. More importantly, like the rest of the cast, she portrays the role in perfect sympathy with the production. Despite slight vocal weaknesses in places (and absolute brilliance in others), I cannot see another performer give herself over so totally to this original production. All performers need to act in a convincing, but constrained way, as their performance is often choreographed with the entire cast.
Similar comments can be made about the rest of the cast. If heard on CD, the reaction might be, "yes, very good, but i have heard slightly better in places". But seen and heard in this performance, everyone fits into the total concept, and no-one lets it down.
Technically, sound (PCM stereo or DTS Master Audio 7.1) is excellent, Although you might have doubts near the beginning where some of the sound is distant and unfocussed. Then you realize you are hearing what I presume to be the angelic host. Camera work is excellent, obviously being choreographed also into the production. The 16:9 image is good, but not excellent and is 1080i, fitting on to a 25Gb disc, perhaps leading to an explanation for the ever so slightly soft image-definition. No region coding, which is common for Blu-ray releases and universal for arts material. Running time, 139 min.
Overall, if you are willing to accept this production on its terms, you will have a very rewarding and enjoyable purchase. It is one of the treasures of my collection."