"Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans is one of those grand operas that flourished in the mid 19th century similar to Le Prophete and Les Huguenots by Meyerbeer. It calls for huge sets, chorus, orchestra and pagentry with a capital P. Not unlike the Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals we see today. Therefore this is not an easy opera to bring off today. This is a pity because it has many wonderful moments and much good music. It certainly deserves to be seen just as often as say Andrea Chenier but I doubt there will be any rush to bring this opera back into the mainstream repertoire. Thanks go then to the Bolshoi for trying another way to make this opera viable in times of financial restraint. The director, Boris Pokrovsky, has conceived this opera as a hybrid between an oratorio and a mediival mystery play.The Met in New York went this route when they staged Le Prophete some years ago with mixed results. Here, the chorus in mostly modern dress (though the womens gowns could possibly pass as being gothic in style) are arrayed in tiers around the relatively economical unit setting. The chorus tends to comment on rather than take part in the action of the opera. There are suitably costumed extras for that. The setting on the whole works very well. The regular addition of banners & scrims adapted from illuminated manuscripts, well placed candleabri and flags the whole thing actually manages to simulate a sumptuousness and grandeur that it doesn't really have and that few can afford these days. The coronation scene manages to come off much better than one could hope for without actually resorting to CGI... The action is left to the principals. Among the singers there are no letdowns. Nina Rautio is a superb Joan. She has a wonderfully full and creamy voice with great reserves of power. What she lacks is the last word in dramatic engagement with the role. Something a singer such as Waltraud Meier would have been outstanding at. I believe that Meier did attempt this role in Germany, she must have been shattering in intensity. The second soprano, Maria Gavrilova, jumps wholeheartedly into her less showy role of Agnes Sorrel, King Charles VII longstanding mistress. The male roles tend to be more window dressing in this opera and the singers Oleg Kulko,Gleb Nikolsky,Valdimir Redkin, and Mikhail Kruthikov do not disappoint us in any way. Their acting tends to be of the more melodramatic style of the old soviet era but it is not so out of place in this opera and provides us with a point of interest during some of the operas longer spots. One of the other reviewers commented on the soprano using the score at one point during the opera. Actually he missed the point...At various spots throughout the opera the chorus are asked by the director to sing from the score and one or two principals are also asked to do this. Pokrovsky seems to be trying to create an impression of an oratorio at those points. I'm not sure that it comes off as he intended. Certainly if the other reviewer didn't catch on it is a sign that it should have been rethought. It is in no way a reflection on the singers or the excellent chorus themselves. The orchestra play magnificently for Alexander Lazarev and Tchaikovsky provided this opera with a number of orchestral preludes which allow the cameras to spend time with the various musicians at work. Once or twice some of the musicians are brought up on the stage by the director which doesn't help to clarify the action but is a boon for the hardworking solo instrumentalists. The sound and picture of this dvd are excellent and there are subtitles in English,German,French,Italian,Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese. also one should note that although this is a film of a fully staged performance, it was not recorded while the audience was present so like the various Bayreuth dvds available, there is no applause and the camera is permitted some very interesting camera angles that it normally wouldn't have managed in a live telecast. All in all a highly recommended version of an opera we are unlikely to see another video of."
Romance, Not Reality
L. Donald Bartholomew | Seattle, WA United States | 10/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Finally, this glorious production of this largely unknown opera by Tchaikovsky is available. Having had a (dare I say it?) bad "pirate" print for some time, I am so looking forward to seeing it for the first time all over again. The work has some of Pyotr Ilyich's most romantic music--the Act I Finale with Joan hearing her voices is wonderous. Historic liberties are taken as Joan has a romance with an enemy soldier, thus leading to her imprisonment. The production is elaborate yet not realistic. Joan's end at the stake is something to be seen to be believed. Now that we've gotten 'Mlada' and 'The Maid of Orleans', isn't it about time for Philips to release the DVD of 'The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya'?"
An unexpected Tchaikovsky treat
J. P. Henry | Carmel, CA USA | 04/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is terrific to be able to see one of Tchaikovsky's neglected operas at last. Tchaikovsky worked on 12 operas - only two of which are regularly performed: Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades. Of the 12, two were never finished; he destoyed two others (one of which has been reconstructed); and one appeared in two forms under two titles. The Maid is a big opera - considered by some, his 'grand opera'. Sort of his equivalent in scope to Puccini's 'Turandot'. We have enjoyed this music for years on long-deleted LPs and are very happy to have access to such a well performed and fine production of a very rare treat."
Beautiful Music !!
Felipe De La Rosa | Peru | 02/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wonderful opera, filled with music of really beautiful inspiration. I like, for example, the prayer in the first act, what a great tune!!!, followed by the famous aria sang by Joan ("Goodbye, forest"). The chorus at the beginning of the second act is another pearl. The last act is incredible, with one of the best duets for soprano and bariton written by Tchaikovsky. And the final scene is so powerfull and compelling: a somber and menacing march that grows into an impressive climax at the end. The operas written by Tchaikovksy are so different: from the intimacy of Onegin to the drama of Queen of Spades, from the sweet and lyric Yolante to the epic pathos of Mazeppa. If you love Tchaikovksy, you will adore this one!! The staging is good, although I don't like it thorough. There are some cuts, the ballet, for instance. Anyway, is a good production."
James M. Ward | 05/31/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A few years back the Met did a series of Tchaikovsky operas produced by the Kirov. A fellow audience member discussing the operas suggested that it was a shame they would not be doing Maid of Orleans because it is this composer's most successful musical drama and his most gorgeous operatic music. Well you know how absolutely opinionated opera people can be. But I do agree that it's fabulous music. This DVD proves the opera should be produced in America more often. Visions, military combat, an evening of letting go with a clergyman, inquisition, immolation. What's not to like?"