The Antichrist is Coming!
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 01/13/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Actually, the Antichrist is Here!!!
20 years ago (in the period I call "My Youth") I worked part time as a clerk at Tower Records. I fell in love with the music of Rued Lanngaard and saw in the catalog an opera called "Antikrist." I had to have it. Unfortunately, we couldn't ever obtain a copy, but the idea of it stuck in my head forever.
Needless to say, I did a double take when recently I stumbled upon a DVD of Lanngaard's "Antikrist." I've watched it twice now and must say, after my initial letdown of not seeing Satan himself wreaking hell on earth, I'm growing to absolutely love the piece.
The performance is from the Royal Danish Opera and it is a fascinatingly odd production. An almost entirely bare stage (enormous) with occasional props (tables, chairs, the organ, etc.) creates an air of vastness to the proceedings - a wise choice by director, Staffan Holm. I must admit initially the set reminded me of the vast Spanish Riding School and, initially, I kept waiting for the arrival of the Lipizzaner Stallions to give us a nice Grand Quadrille!
Rather than the evil, sadistic opus I was hoping for, Lanngaard's opera is almost more of an oratorio, a meditation if you will, contemplating the Antichrist's effect on modern society. The ideas embraced by Lanngaard may have been a bit shocking when he penned his opera, but today, they wouldn't be out of place being discussed in Sunday School.
The cast is dressed mostly in solemn black, with a turn of the 19th century feel, lending a church parable - "let's put on a show" quality which feels strangely right. With no recurring characters, those needing a typical linear-style operatic tale might need to look elsewhere, but those wanting to experience something new (circa 1920's) will find plenty to fascinate and running at a mere 96 minutes, it's relatively painless.
Musically, Lanngaard's glorious, sometimes bombastic score, owes an enormous debt to Wagner and Strauss and fans of these composers, should have no problem wrapping their ears around Lanngaard's very tonal core. The Danish National Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard along with the cast of fine Danish singers all seem to be having a grand old time - and who wouldn't! Most of the names are unfamiliar, but many will recognize Poul Elming (he of the Kupfer Berlin Parsifal fame), but almost all of the singing is uniformly exquisite with biggish voices from attractive Danes in some big BIG music.
The DVD also features a documentary which I've not yet watched, but which sounds rather interesting.
I really recommend this!
A Traditionalist's Revolution
M. F TERRIS | Miami, FL USA | 12/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rue Langgard's "Antikrist" is a beautiful and highly original work written almost nine decades ago to a libretto of the composer's own making. It was revised and repeatedly rejected by the Danish National Opera (until this 2002 production) because the libretto was "unsuitable." As Bendt Nielsen puts it in his excellent introduction: "There are no recurrent characters, there is no plot in the traditional sense, and the opera consists to a great extent of monologues."
Langgard grew up in a strict Christian household which viewed traditional music, e.g., Beethovan's and Wagner's, as providing a divine harmony that helped bring man closer to the divine. However, more modern, dissonant composers (e.g., Puccini, Richard Strauss, and Carl Nielsen) were doing the devil's handiwork; Langgard's parents cautioned their son against them. They remained powerful temptations. The "Antikrist" became the perfect opportunity to explore those temptations within a pious structure and a harmonious context.
The production is excellent. Leading from the pit, Thomas Dausgaard brings clarity, energy, and grace to the score. The ensemble cast sing beautifully and portray their characters skillfully; Staffan Holm, the stage director, bears special mention. His insights bring a coherence and even a measure of dramatic tension to a work that could easily have appeared chaotic. A unique feature of this recording is the option of viewing the performance with Holm'and Dausgaard's running commentary appearing at the base of the picture in lieu of libretto translation. The camera work is effective, and the quality of the sound reproduction is outstanding."
Exquisite, Scary, Stunning; a Triumph!
N. Solomon | Kansas City, MO United States | 08/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is just great if you like heavy dark stuff with touches of sublime ethereal beauty. Costumes and set are understated and perfect, the *hore of Babylon is bathed in red and truly stunning. Music is prosaic, melodious, and very accessible. Recommended if you like: Rautavaara's Rasputin, Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de loin, Verdi's Requiem, or sacred music with dark themes."
Don't skip the commentary!
John Crook | Atlanta, GA USA | 09/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Langgaard's very accessible and often electrifying score is given its due by a thoroughly committed cast and orchestra under a conductor who nicely calibrates the ebb and flow of the piece. The composer called this work a "church opera," but it really is a series of loosely connected scenes structured in the style of a medieval mystery play, with allegorical characters articulating a deliberately opaque text. The staging is visually arresting, but by all means be sure to listen at some point to the commentary, which is, no pun intended, a revelation."