The English National Opera first mounted David Alden's production of Ariodante, one of Handel's greatest masterpieces, in 1993. It met with unanimous critical and popular acclaim, and this 1996 revival features many of the... more » leading singers from the original production. Ariodante is Handel's 1735 setting of an episode from Ariosto, in which the King of Scotland's daughter is treacherously accused of infidelity to her promised husband. The range of feelings provoked as the characters develop is caught in music of quite extraordinary emotional power, even by Handel's own exalted standards. 178 minutes. Ariodante: Ann Murray
"My husband and I saw this production when it was revived at the ENO in 2002. We are fervent Handelians, experienced music and opera listeners, and no strangers to postmodern productions of baroque works. Sometimes they work well. For example, the po mo production of Purcell's Faerie Queene done at the ENO in 1998 was delightful. ENO's modernist production of Handel's Semele in 2000 was fabulous. We saw a production of Handel's Radamisto at the St. Louis Opera which, despite some problems with the singers, was one of the most beautiful and meaningful set designs I've ever seen (the designers won a Tony shortly after that for another production). I say all this to let readers know that we are not closed-minded attendees who only respond to period-correct-in-every-way productions.
That said, I have to say that this production of Ariodante, one of Handel's most beautiful operas, was one of the most ridiculous and disappointing experiences we've ever had with an opera, and has made us really wary of crossing the pond to go to anything else at the ENO. The design is preposterous, ugly, has no purpose except to shock the audience and absolutely torture the singers who have to negotiate it. The singers have apparently been instructed to at times act as if their words mean the exact opposite of what they are actually singing, for some reason. It's impossible to watch the production for long without having an impulse to laugh.
Don't waste your money on this DVD unless you're looking for an example of how best to ruin an opera."
Totally Exciting Handel!
uncadonald | Seattle, WA USA | 02/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those of your operaphiles out there who have yet to venture into the operatic world of Handel, this is the performance for you! The production is stunningly modern--crisp, clean, sharp--and yet, at the same time, takes you back to share in the visceral excitement of that first opening night. Ann Murray is a wonder! I was forced to repeat her first act aria three times before I could move on. I could list a number of "hidden joys" to watch for: how the chorus "changes" throughout the performance, the dramatic force of the work, etc. but, honestly, I would rather that you discover them for yourselves. To put it simply: I thought that I would "test the waters" and watch only a bit of it when it arrived. Wrong!!! I watched the entire performance--all 177 minutes of it. And, in the past week, I have reviewed sections, repeatedly, which particularly enthrall me. And who would have thought it from Handel?"
A Baroque Nightmare
Anastasia Beaverhausen | 12/19/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
""Ariodante" can easily be regarded as Handel's most romantic opera - "Flavio" is a close second. It does not deal with the fate of nations/kingdoms but rather focusses on the individual and his/her romantic desires. Many scenes are set in the outdoors: the countryside, the royal gardens, or a forest; and a lot of the drama takes place at night. These different locations afford Handel the opportunity to 'indulge' his fertile imagination to compose the most sensual and programmatic music of his or any other time - like the rising of the moon at the beginning of Act 2. To go into the musical and dramatic 'architecture' of "Ariodante" and Handel's breaking with the Baroque tradition would take too much time here. (Please see Winton Dean's "Handel and the Opera Seria" for more information on this and Handel's other operas.) The director clearly had a (weird) personal agenda. And to expect the performers to be at their best in a production like this is not realistic: Ginevra and Ariodante (respectively the future Queen and King of Scotland) look like they receive EST treatment very regularly; the King of Scotland looks like a dirty old man who has not bathed for months. And Dalinda (the Lady-in-waiting to Ginevra, the future Queen of Scotland) looks off like an Italian widow. The scheming Polinesso, Duke of Albany, who is an elegant courtier (who can insinuate himself into the crown princess's private chambers!) ... just does not look like he could/should be allowed into polite society. One should always try to be objective when reviewing a product and this is one of the few DVD's I would not recommend you to buy. It is a dark, ugly, unintelligent and sexually explicit production. The characters are not believably portrayed as indicated in the libretto as Handel set it. Finally, if I can be abstract, Ariodante should remind one of a Renaissance garden (at night) saturated with the scent of jasmine and other summer flowers. Instead here we get stuck in a stinking bog. A great pity as the ENO's 'Serse' was a beautiful, imaginative yet truthful reading as this one is unattractive and uninspired."
Fine singing, horrible direction
Anastasia Beaverhausen | 07/08/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The opera video club I run was really looking forward to this DVD, especially as many of us are Handel fans. Unfortunately, we only made it about 40 minutes in before we had to turn it off! The singing is not the problem, it's the rolling on the floor that drove us crazy. Maybe it seemed like a fresh idea in 1996, but it doesn't now!Don't be fooled by the glorious colors and the intriguing postmodern-retro-baroque production. The end result is that each of the characters ends up an unappealing caricature, someone you really don't care about. This one rolls on the floor all the time, that one tongues his walking stick in a lewd manner all the time... Enough said. Now you have various opinions, and you'll have to make up your own mind...We did enjoy the ENO's production of Xerxes, though, in case you're looking for an alternative."
Dvir Ofek | Israel | 07/27/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this performance on tv a few weeks ago, and since I never saw it before (eventhough I own the Minkowski CD and is one of my favorites) I looked forward to the broadcast. I can't stress enough my dissapointment, after years of having in mind a fantasy of how this divine music should come to life on stage, when I saw the horrible Ann Murray shatter this fantasy to pieces. She has the most dreadful voice I have ever heard and her acting skills are resemble those of a wooden log, as she keeps talking to her hands while singing every damn aria in this magnificant opera.
The other singers are also not the best you can find on the market but have certain qualities - Christopher Robson (Polinesso) acts as a true villain with his snake-like behavoir, and Lesley Garrett as Dalinda which is pretty AND has a nice voice.
But the most important thing - what's the deal with the translation from Italian to English?! I hate it when they do that! Opera should be sung in it's original language, and what language would be more suited for this lovely music than the most beautiful language in the world - Italian - the language of music.
I still keep this performance on tape just to show everybody who visits me how a perfect piece could be crashed under the harsh hands and voices of untalented performers.
This recording should be bought only to serve as a testament of how NOT to perform music!"