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Truly lovely singing, although visually removed from the cla
Ingrid Heyn | Melbourne, Australia | 02/12/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
I can see I'm not going to be popular in animadverting against this DVD, but based on the reviews currently posted, I'd have taken the plunge and bought this DVD. (I did in fact buy the DVD, but without having read any reviews of it at all.) So I would like to add the viewpoint of someone who does not MIND updated/modernised staging, but prefers classical staging. An example of a modernised staging that I thought worked beautifully is the Australian production of Giulio Cesare (Handel), in which Yvonne Kenny and Graham Pushee led a mostly fabulous cast, and the staging is remarkably powerful, elegant and fitting. I also adore without reservation the La Traviata with Mireille Delunsch, which is as far removed from the more traditional stagings as one could get, yet it works wonderfully for me. It's in fact the most moving Traviata I have ever seen.
But modernisation for the point of modernisation... modernisation for the sake of making it "less boring" for the audience (for an opera lover, this is oxymoronic! We tend to adore imaginative but rooted-in-the-classical-staging-tradition staging, and the risk is that some of us will be bored BY THE MODERNISED versions!)... modernisation for the purpose of dragging a Freudian subtext from the opera... and so on... no. No, and no, and no. I don't ever want the director to place his interpretation over and above the actual meaning and context of the composer. To remove an opera from its time period is fraught with difficulties because, for instance, both the composer and the society of the period viewed morality, societal behaviour and class structures differently from the way in which most 21st century directors do. This gives an important context to the character motivations (in Don Giovanni, for instance, Donna Elvira's retiring to a convent does not make sense in a modern setting). This can sometimes be overcome by very clever staging and acting, but I really do not think it is easily done.
I also think a "modernise it" approach may fail by virtue of the subtext the director is trying to convey. It doesn't always fail by any means, but... well, I'm definitely wary of modernised versions. This review is really aimed at letting those who love traditionally staged operas know what to expect in this DVD.
Firstly, I'll be frank - I loathed, loathed, loathed the costumes. The cast are uniformly good-looking people, but the costumes did not flatter them at all. The men weren't so badly off as the women, although one finds the white karate outfits (?) which they wore to be inexplicable. But the women! Why on earth were they dressed in badly designed tennis outfits? (That is what the outfits looked like.) The skirts were completely unflattering, with a slightly ballooning fullness at the hips that was terribly unfair for the women.
I understand that the director thought the preponderance of the colour "white" everywhere would signify "chastity" or "purity" or "coldness", as relevant to the older brother's stated intention not to marry and not to fall prey to any woman, no matter how charming.
This is the level of interpretation... I really was not impressed!
The younger brother, with whose affections the "pretended simpleton" of the title played, does want to marry, and ironically in the opera itself, he's the only one who does not find a bride. (I say "in the opera itself" - it does not hold true for this particular production which clearly does not want to maintain the Mozartian ending.) But his desire to wed, and the cast's entire triumph of love and passion over coldness is signified by... yes, you guessed it, the colour "red". That is, red goo is smeared over the unfortunate younger bachelor - this does not make sense in terms of the action, but only in terms of the director's idea of the opera. (There's some silly business too with red goo smeared onto his back in the shape of a heart, signifying the love letter he must send to Rosina.)
Red shoes, a red top, a red bra, they all gradually add to an increasing "redness" in the costumes. It really does not work for me. The idea is terribly simplistic, without subtlety.
The set itself is minimal - it consists of two slightly slanted "wings" of white on either side, down which the characters slide, up which they trot, behind which they pop up. I did not like it, but had the costumes been better and the directing style less odd, I would not have minded the set.
The directing style... ugh. I am of course only expressing my own opinion... but the acting style was just silly. Contorted arm movements, running up and down the side wings, and the light-generated "weapons" in the duel were not appealing to me. It seemed rather childish... I also could not fathom the sense in having an actress or dancer shadowing Rosina for more than half of the opera. The director was trying to convey something about a "dark Rosina", presumably because Rosina is rather mischievously cruel with the younger brother's affections, and she certainly also plays with the older brother's heart as well (although she does actually grant her hand to him at the opera's end). But this is trying to make something sensible of a basically nonsensical plot!
Mozart's opera "La Finta Semplice" is not intended to be a serious presentation of human behaviour. It's fun, full of intentionally silly behaviour, deliciously redolent of moments such as the older brother's explanation of his "plop-plop-plop" beating heart. It's full of beautiful things musically, and I do not agree with the reviewer who said that taking out the recitatives removes the "boring" stuff. Au contraire - I believe Mozart's recitatives are marvellously full of character. Taking them out is unjust to the opera, although I realise that not everyone would agree with me.
If the recits MUST be removed, then I must agree it was well done in this production. The actress who performed the spoken German dialogue was indeed wonderful - her speaking voice was lively and effective, and her appearance (facial gestures and movement on the stage) was striking. (I did not like the yellow tracksuit she wore, though - what was it supposed to represent?)
Having the "shadow Rosina" completely naked except for long Godiva-like hair over her face sweeping down to cover her genital area... well, that too had me wincing. What was the purpose? Perhaps something terribly profound such as "Here we have Rosina singing about her real desire for love and her fear of having her heart toyed with, so let us make the shadow character NAKED to show this is Rosina being HONEST"? I can but sigh - it looked awfully odd and inappropriate, and did not add any meaning at all. In fact, it ruined that gorgeous aria for me in this production.
And gorgeous is the right word to use for the singing. Everyone was beautifully cast - I enjoyed the voices of all, but in particular the lovely singing of Ms Hartelius as Rosina. (BEAUTIFUL voice! She reminded me quite a lot of Dorothea Röschmann - a pure and creamy soprano ideal for Mozart.) But everyone is good in this production, and everyone is beautiful to look at in potentia in this production as well. With a different director and costume designer, this could have been a stunner of a production.
Viewers who like avant-garde productions have clearly embraced this performance and find great meaning in it.
Obviously, as you can see, I did not find great meaning, and found the visual of this DVD less than inspiring. I did adore the singing and consider the cast excellent... but the directing adversely affected my enjoyment, and I do not think I'll be watching this again."
J. H. Gaulard | London United Kingdom | 01/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What is performed on stage is Mozart's opera "La Finta Semplice", taped in Salzburg in 2006 and composed when young Wolfgang was only 12. The DVD is part of the "M22" collection of all Mozart operas on DVD. Let's face it: this is not a Mozart for the faint-hearted: the stage director decided to savagely cut the recitativo secco so that the opera runs for a total 2h10 versus the usual pace of 3h00. He decided to replace most of this dialogue -- initially in Italian -- by a German dialogue, "acted" by all the singers and a fantastic German actress, Marianne Hamre. The result tends to make Mozart's genius, aged 12, even more obvious: with most of the "boring" bits removed, we are left with virtually two hours of non-stop beauty, showing the young composer's lyricism and comical sense. The production of Joachim Schloemer has a lot to do with this success. Without negating the humorous aspects of the piece -- where comic book elements intermingle with body painting and practical jokes, he also turns it into a reflection on creation and the independence of the artist. In this respect the production can also be very moving -- particularly when Rosina, the main character, frees herself from her "shadow" who choreographed all her movements. The triumph is also musical. The distribution is simply unparalleled, led by the beautiful soprano Malin Hartelius as Rosina and the bass Josef Wagner. Their duet in Act II when they performed an hilarious "love dance" is worth by itself the price of the DVD. This very integrated and very lyric team of singers/actors is enthusiastically conducted by Michael Hofstetter. The Camerata Salzburg provides the ideal Mozart orchestra, accurate, very rhythmic and also lyrical when all the singers pause for thought. An unforgettable evening, that should hopefully help "Semplice" back in the repertoire. Bring on the other DVDs of the M22 collection! "
LA FINTA SEMPLICE
T. C. | 01/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This production of a very early Mozart opera is charming. The secco recitatives were cut and instead an actress in yellow outfit recites briefly in German the plot. Most of the singers are young with fresh and beautiful voices. The only well known singer is soprano Malin Hartelius. A tiny duet of her with bass Josef Wagner in the second part of the work is one of the funniest moments I saw in an opera production... "
EXCELLENT PRODUCTION OF MOZART'S FIRST OPERA
Jesse Knight | woburn ma usa | 12/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very innovative production that for the most part is very effective. Dance moves that could be from the movie "Dirty Dancing" might offend some, but are very effective. The brief appearance of an extra dressed only in floor length hair, which does not quite cover her, is less effective. Overall this is regietheater with a good plan that has meaning for all, not just the director.
For fans of Malin Hartelius this a must have. For the first time on DVD she is cast as an older woman. She is perfect in every way.
The cast is a very talented group of young singers who are new to me. Every one is very good.
The orchestra is comprised of modern instruments expertly balanced. This is a nice change from the bright sound that has dominated early music.
Mozart for the modern mind
lalamus | Charm City | 04/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This unique production introduces Mozart's superb music into a contemporary context that is easily accessible to those with little exposure to opera, as well as offering traditional opera fans a frisson of naughtiness. Interestingly, this modern version recapitulates the bawdy nature of the opera that existed when it was originally presented."