Still the best of the lot
Michael D. Moore | Atlanta, GA USA | 04/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The long-awaiting DVD of this production is out, and it is fabulous. As one could expect from DGG, the sound and visuals are first-rate. If you have to choose only one recording of this great opera, this is the one to get (I have them all, I think). The costumes are sets are terrific and authentic- probably better than authentic. One gets the feeling that one is there, along with the Duke and Duchess. Amazing playing, especially considering how early in the "early music revival" period this was made.
The box set with the other two extant Monteverdi operas is a good deal, as well, as they are also excellent. The work is timeless, fun, and profound. See this, in this version, and you'll be a fan for life."
At last available on DVD. Well worth the wait.
Doug Urquhart | Southport, CT USA | 02/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Monteverdi's L'Orfeo was first performed in 1607, which makes it one of the first operas ever written.
Staging such an antique work is a challenge, since the social environment in which it was first performed has long vanished, and our knowledge of it is imperfect, at best.
There are many temptations for a director of such a piece, including 'modern dress', high camp, or worst of all, he could treat it as a contemporary opera.
Fortunately, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle has fallen into none of these traps - he stages, in front of a modern audience, a formal masque-like performance, and transforms the chorus into the 17th century audience - a very clever trick which allows them to perform in the opera but also to react to its contents.
Singing styles are unorthodox, but I suspect authentic for the period.
And here's the strange thing - the music is remarkably modern, with none of the stilted rhythms of some later composers.
This is a superb production. Up until now, only available if you could find a second-hand VHS recording.
This review is based on viewing just such a recording, from my local library. I look forward to seeing and hearing it on DVD.
Daniel Rodriguez | Mexico City | 04/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I also own the performance staged at the Liceu de Barcelona, and was able to compare it to Harnoncourt's version. What I like more about this last one (Harnoncourt) is the quality of the singers and that they are better actors, especially in the dramatic moments. The staging is impressive, although I like the Barcelona one better because it makes me feel that this is the way it was represented for the first time, during Monteverdi's life."
MK | Vancouver, Canada | 08/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a tightly controlled and deeply felt performance. All pieces are in careful balance: the music, the staging, and the acting. Musically, Nikolaus Harnoncourt's dramatic precision is unsurpassed. It sounds gorgeous, but Harnoncurt is not after beautiful sound. It is always the music's emotional substance that anchors and propels his performances, and this is the root of his communicative power here too.
Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's stage is likewise richly textured. It creates a dreamy, mythical world: at once glittering and shadowy, fragile and monumental, vaguely familiar and eerily distant. So captivating is the staging that the only weak points of this filmed version are the sudden close-ups and unusual camera-angles that depart from what you would see in the theatre. With the exception of the shots of Harnoncourt and the orchestra, which do add emotional force, such embellishments appear as attempts to improve upon perfection.
The singers are excellent. It feels unfair to single out anyone, but Trudeliese Schmidt in the double role of La Musica/Speranza is particularly charismatic. Philippe Huttenlocher is an earthy, masculine Orpheus--attractive and flawed. To me, Ian Bostridge on the audio-recording with Emmanuelle Haim is the most seductive Orpheus with a self-consciously demigodly presence. Huttenlocher's is a handsome young man--earnest, inexperienced, overconfident. A very human portrayal.