Stanley Hauer | Hattiesburg, MS USA | 09/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Come on, guys. This is just about as good as you're gonna get nowadays. Yes, the ol' girl is past her prime. Yes the tenor is squally. But when will you hear a better cast? Not in our lifetimes, I'll bet! (Though try the Opera D'Oro CD with Corelli and Sutherland.) The production values are pretty good. Orchestra is fine. Most of the cast hit most of the notes. Let's just admit that we don't have singers anymore who can perform "The Night of the Seven Stars." If you want to see this opera, this is it. Okay?"
Wonderful opera, passable production.
Alain Blouin | Ste-Foy, Québec Canada | 09/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I will tell you from the start, I know a good amount of things about the great masterpieces of opera: I have heard Wagner's Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde, Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal, Verdi's La Traviata and his four last works, Richard Strauss' Salome, Elektra and Rosenkavalier, Berg's Wozzek, as well as a bunch of other things. I can therefore say that I know what "Grand" opera is. And "Les Huguenots" is.Meyerbeer has for long been disregarded as a great composer, and this because many other composers who now have a tremendous success (especially Schumann and Wagner) have made fun of him and ridiculised his musical skills. Today, peoples still find something bad to say of his music. Let me try to pop their balloons.First, according to Meyerbeer bashers, his "melodic invention" is inferior to Bel-cantists, especially Verdi. His arias are, apparently, too short. I beg to differ. The only mistake Meyerbeer ever made in his arias was not to repeat himself. The arias in "Les huguenots" are, if you repeat their melodies like Verdi does in "Rigoletto", "La traviata" or "Il trovatore", are pretty much of similar length and expressivity. As an example, if you take, say, Raoul(the tenor)'s romance "Plus blanche que la blanche ermine" and make him repeat it completely, with other lyrics, we obtain an aria as long as "La donna e mobile", except with better orchestration. It is, however, comprehensible they may SEEM shorter, but their musical value is in no way inferior. If you want a longer aria, just play it's part of the dvd again; it'll do just like Verdi in his middle-period arias. And for those who say this composer couldn't create complex melodic episodes, just take the 16 minutes long love-duet that ends the fourth act of this opera!Also, it would appear that Meyerbeer's operas are too pompous, give an exterior effect, and rely on "effects without causes", to quote Wagner. It supposedly threathens the building of the acts of his operas. Only a misunderstanding of the very essence of the "Historical grand opera" can lead to such beliefs. Meyerbeer's operas are deeply humane, showing how individuals at a given historical moment influence and see their lives be influenced (often tragically) by it. It is normal Meyerbeer includes "pompous" or "cause-less" episodes in his opera, to create a picture of society at that time, and thus put into relief the human drama that later unfolds before our eyes. The perfect example would be the finale of act 3, where women wish happy days to a newly married couple, while the bride must hide her pain about being married to someone else than the one she loves (don't worry, she's more strongly built than Lucia of Lammermoor).Finally, some say such works could only appeal to the french middle-class "bourgeoisie" of the time, which had inferior musical tastes, only wanted big spectacles, etc. Well, it would then mean the territory of France extended at that time from Chicago to Moscow!Having said what I felt necessary about Meyerbeer, I will give a few words about the production of this dvd. All sets are beautiful, but the singing is a mixed bag. John Pringle (Baritone) and Amanda Thane (Dramatic soprano) give very good performances. Anson Austin, the leading tenor, is in no way a Placido Domingo, but for a role as difficult as his, he manages pretty well. Clifford Grant (Bass) barfs his words more than he speaks them, but the singing itself is all right, though it may take time to get used to it. John Wegner (Bass I think) has a far too light voice for his role, I think, but he doesn't sing as long as some other main characters. Joan Sutherland (Coloratura soprano) is quite shaky (it is, after all, her last role), but still listenable. All of them (even Joan Sutherland) have good acting on their side, and only Grant, Sutherland and Thane have slight troubles at times with french diction. Subtitles are only in english, and the translating is quite passable. Good stereo sound, good conducting, good acoustics. The first scene of the fifth act was omitted, and what remains of it is considered as part of the fourth act.To conclude, if you like operas with vivid and energetic orchestration, powerful chorus pieces, elegant yet expressive melodies, human dramas, grandiose finales and merry cathartic fun, this opera should be your next buy. Meyerbeer was the most successful composer of his time. We must now preserve his works, instead of denigrating them, for they are as important to french opera as Wagner's lyric dramas to germans and Verdi's last four operas to italians, and can be justly qualified as true musical powerhouses."
Way to go, Dame Joan
Teacup | Assam, India | 11/11/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, previous reviewers are correct, the great lady is past her prime. IT DOESN'T MATTER. She is still the best singer on the stage and her acting as well as her stage manners are exemplary. She gives some of the best demonstrations of how to acknowledge audience applause without breaking character.
This was a brilliant choice for a farewell performance. It showed off her voice, and though the historic Marguerite de Valois was a bride of 18 at the time of the St. Bartholomew's massacre, Ms Sutherland playing her as an older woman doesn't spoil the opera story-line. The next best singer was the page Urbain, who has lovely arias, which she sang competently and acted well. None of the other singers were upto snuff.
The staging and sets are lovely. The third act ballet (gypsies) was well done, but not well sung. It is a pity that the Australian opera did not, at least for this occasion, import talent to match Ms. Sutherland's. I suppose it made her stand out. Bravissima, La Stupenda, bless you and thank you for sharing your great gift with us all.
I would love to hear the earlier audio version with Ms. Sutherland in the same role and with a cast that can truly be described as the seven stars. The only problem is that you have to pay almost $10 per star! Someday, I shall own it."
Completely enjoyed it
A. Pascale | Philadelphia, PA | 03/30/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I enjoyed this performance very much. I finally got to see what "Les Huguenots" is all about. Why this opera is not performed regularly is a mystery to me.
It seems to me that you have to listen to it on its own terms. Just like Wagner requires you to accept him on his terms. If you fight Wagner and expect him to be this or that, you will not enjoy him and he will bore you to death (I'm still not able to sit through "Parsifal"). The same is with this opera. If you accept the length and let it unfold, when Act 4 comes you will be gripped in the drama. The beauty of the scene with Raoul and Valentine will amaze you and hold you through the end of the opera.
Instead of another "Lucia di Lammermoor" let's have this performed. However you need a good tenor and the one on this performance is pretty good.
The video is a little dark at times and the homage to Joan Southerland is a bit long (over twenty minutes). I would have preferred more of the music and less homage. But I'm happy to have this video.
Get this video over the one with Richard Leach. That one is in German and the Nazi setting is distracting and gets in the way, especially if you are not familiar with Les Huguenots. If you want to get it as a second then OK as Leach is amazing."