This is about as unconventional and controversial as an opera video can get. Opinions on it range from wildly enthusiastic to uncompromisingly negative, with little in between. I find it extraordinarily powerful and (onc... more »e some mental adjustments are made) theatrically convincing. Maria Stuarda, an opera by Donizetti based on a play by Schiller, exists in two rather different editions--from 1834 and 1835. Both are represented musically in parts of this production, with considerable rewriting by Bonynge (as was done in Donizetti's time) to show off the spectacular voices of Sutherland and Tourangeau. As if that was not complicated enough, this 1988 production, a joint project of Czech and German television, uses the 1975 Decca recording for its music, with Czech performers doing skilled lip synchronization. In nonmusical connecting passages, they synchronize to Schiller's original German script. For full enjoyment, you have to expand the usual "suspension of disbelief" to cover frequent shifts between spoken German and sung Italian, in which you never hear the actual voices of the people you see on the screen. Not a promising description, but it works like a charm. The Czech actors, the German speaking voices, and the recorded singers are all first-class and Petr Weigl has blended their efforts with dazzling skill. Most hard-core opera fans, who have already accepted the concept of two British queens singing at one another in Italian, should be able to handle the whole package. The story (of the condemnation and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, by her rival, Queen Elizabeth I) is a powerful one, and both Schiller and Donizetti have exploited it for all its worth. The central scene--a face-to-face confrontation between Mary and Elizabeth--never actually happened, but it makes crackling drama, and in this production it has enormous impact. --Joe McLellan« less
Noam Eitan | Brooklyn, NY United States | 02/26/2000
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The film attempts to combine Schiller's play with Donizetti's opera. The target audience may be opera lovers who grew up in countries where Shiller is taught and revered in highschool. The Czech actors are dubbed in German for the dialogues and in Italian by the Decca recording of the opera, for the sung scenes. The film starts with 15 minutes of an exceedingly tedious dialogue in German. Watching the Czech actors proceed from dubbed spoken German to the dubbed voices of famous singers in Italian is absurd beyond belief. The whole thing has the logic of a Monty Python sketch, and casts some doubt on director Petr Weigl's artistic judgment. The audio and video quality are excellent."
Robert G. VanStryland | Denton, TX USA | 08/20/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This is not a performance of Donizetti's opera. Scenes from the opera (sung in Italian) are interspersed with scenes from Schiller's play (spoken in German). The result is ... well, I don't know what name to give to the result. Petr Weigl has made some pretty good opera films, and some pretty awful ones, but this one takes the cake as the worst trashing of an opera ever committed to film. It doesn't do much for Schiller's play, either. The singing (what there is of it) by Joan Sutherland, Huguette Tourangeau, and Luciano Pavarotti is very good (Weigl obtained a pre-existing sound recording of the complete opera and sliced out the little bits that he needed for his film), but there's not enough of the opera or of the play for any music drama or any other sort of drama to happen. Avoid this DVD and buy the CD set of the opera instead. If you're interested in Schiller's play, just read it."
Both dimished by half
S. J McKenna | San Francisco, CA USA | 10/19/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Bloodless bland facial expressions and body language as accompaniment to deliberately emotional full-body singing is a disconnect I don't find appealing. Just letting your mouth hang open as long as a note is held does not convey the fire or the ice of the musical content and intent. Yikes. This is painful to watch when these two genres -- Italian opera and German dramatic play -- are mixed, but never really blended. I'd rather watch a too-old Sutherland and an un-English Pavarotti impersonating their characters through music than watch actors impersonate characters while impersonating singers.
It all comes across hollow/empty/fake/contrived to this viewer/listener. This is a hybrid that thankfully cannot reproduce itself."
L. Mitnick | Chicago, Illinois United States | 03/20/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"If you think this is a complete performance of Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda", think again. It's nothing of the kind. I'm not even sure WHAT this is. Scenes from the opera are mimed by actors -----to the recording, no less, of Joan Sutherland-Hugette Tourangeau on London Records. Both sing spectacularly well, but in this context, it makes no effect whatsoever. One is far better off just purchasing the recording on CD. I cannot speak for everyone, but I find this to be a complete failure of an attempt to combine two mediums. By such halfway measures, nothing is accomplished. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone. I gave it one star only because I couldn't give it a zero, which is exactly what it is."
An Infertile Hybrid
Stanley H. Nemeth | Garden Grove, CA United States | 06/24/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Petr Weigl deserves praise for his bold experiment, a combining of the rhetoric of Schiller with the lyricism of Donizetti to achieve something higher, a Shakespearian heft in the telling of the sad tale of the Scottish queen, Mary Stuart. Unfortunately, the tale as related does not transcend the soap operatic, and this despite the beautiful voices of Sutherland, Tourangeau and Pavarotti. The end result is essentially no more than vintage melodrama. The characters parade past the viewer as if on stilts. The combination of the rhetorical and the lyrical emerges simply as doubly pretentious in the unfriendly (because realistic) medium of film. The director's intention was fascinating. It is too bad that the resultant film is no more than mediocre."