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G. Stefan Lazar | San Francisco, CA USA | 07/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For me the jury is still out on this. It is beautifully sung but if you are used to a tenor in the role, this is a difficult adjustment. I need to listen to it a few more times. Why the WARNING? This is a concert version. It is not staged. The only way to know that is the info provided on the back of the box. It is worth having as an alternative but I wish I had known it was not staged ahead of time."
Ainsi soit il, tous les temps
Joseph L. Ponessa | Glendive MT USA | 04/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Currently the DVD catalog holds three WERTHERS--Dvorsky (1985), Hampson (2002) and Alvarez (2005)--with fine singers in the principal roles. The DVDs differ greatly in every way, however. Dvorsky and Alvarez are tenors, while Hampson is baritone. The original score calls for tenor, but the composer himself lowered the title role ten years later for a performance in Saint Petersburg. So there is no reason to look down one's nose at Hampson's version, and his performance is so fine that it validates the alternative. Dvorsky appears in an opera film, severely cut--His version is only 101 minutes, while Hampson clocks in at 145 and Alvarez at 132. The film happens to be very fine, but represents only 2/3 of the opera. Hampson's is a concert version with no staging at all, although the cast interact in front of their microphones, sometimes at a disadvantage to the pickup. There is real drama to watching the singers, even the chorus, even in close-up, for they sing their hearts out. Alvarez has the advantage of singing onstage in a live performance, but the production is distracting with nonmusical nonsense going on from the beginning. Far better to see Hampson's young singers than to watch Alvarez' children in bathing trunks throwing beach balls around the set. In the absence of ideas for real staging, let the performance be concert. Finally, the Hampson version is to be preferred because it takes place in France, whereas Dvorsky's team is Slovak and Alvarez' is Austrian. French texts like this one are a harder for international companies than Italian or German texts, because French has quite a few more vowel sounds that need to be distinguished with high precision. The idiomatic singing of Hampson's French chorus and secondary cast members is wonderful. And the French are notable for their fine sense of pitch in choral singing, and really shine here. Let it be so, always."
A great performance sabotaged
Archie | Ottawa ON Canada | 03/12/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I have no idea how many (if any) stars to award this DVD. Take a stellar cast and a well conducted orchestra, put in a lot of microphones and cameras, and one starts with a first class performance. Then get a film editor who seems to have an attention deficit disorder(or believes that those who will watch this DVD have ADD) and who cuts and cuts from one thing to another, zooming and out; and the whole thing is sabotaged. If one has to watch with eyes shut, one might as well get a CD -- although with surround sound, this is a wonderful performance.
It is a concert performance, but the stage director has the singers interacting with each other as much as possible. However the film editor did not understand that this is, after all, an opera, a drama, with characters and a story. Why, during the wonderful solos and duets with which this opera abounds, must he cut to closeups of the conductor and the orchestra players and then cut back and forth going against the music and drama instead of with it? Why, in the first act for example, does he close in on Ms. Graham but have the conductor's arm waving around between the camera and Ms. Graham. Why, at crucial points during an aria must he cut into the conductor grimacing at the orchestra? I could go on and on with how this performance has been sabotaged, but I think I have given the idea of what went so horribly wrong.
It is very very frustrating and from my point of view completely ruins what could have been (and doubtless was for those lucky enough to have been present) a wonderful 5 star performance. I had looked forward to this DVD because I so admire Hampson and Graham, but now I am sorry I bothered.
I would recommend getting the Petr Weigl production with Brigitte Fassbaender and Peter Dvorsky. It, as with all the Weigl productions, abridged to focus entirely on the relationship between the main characters, but for sheer drama, music and setting it is the best currently available."
Over the top
Charles E. Shafer | Easton, PA United States | 11/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Exceptional performances. This being the baritone version, I found it more effective than the original tenor version. For me, the fact that it was a concert rather than a fully staged opera resulted in no diminution of the impact. Excellent audio engineering. Immediate post performance backstage shots and curtain calls should have been more abundant."
bert1761 | Washington, DC United States | 07/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although this is a concert performance rather than a fully staged one, there is no lack of drama. Everyone sings as though he or she WERE the actual character. Sets, costumes and movement are completely unnecessary when every emotion is displayed in the singers' faces and voices. Although the title role is typically taken by a tenor, Thomas Hampson is so invested in his performance and sings with such gorgeous tone that you can forget you ever heard a tenor in this part. Susan Graham is for me the DEFINITIVE Charlotte. She has just the right weight and tone in her voice (although others who have recorded the part on CD have been wonderful -- most notably, Tatiana Troyanos and Frederica von Stade -- their voices have been either too dark or too light). In addition, her performance, in particular, in Act III will break your heart. While all the other parts are well-taken, Sandrine Piau deserves special mention as the perfect Sophie."