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Thread: Janacek on DVD and Blu-ray

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Default Janacek on DVD and Blu-ray



    This is only my second hearing of this opera (I think I saw it live in the 80s) and I was so moved and impressed by the music and story - helped along by the deeply committed and affecting perfomances of Nina Stemme and Eva Marton.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post


    This is only my second hearing of this opera (I think I saw it live in the 80s) and I was so moved and impressed by the music and story - helped along by the deeply committed and affecting perfomances of Nina Stemme and Eva Marton.
    Just ordered a very cheap Czech CD version of this, looking for great DVD version, would you give this DVD above a strong endorsement? (only money right)

    This is not a modern abstract "euro trash" performance ist it.....

    CD verasion (cheap used)

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    Just ordered a very cheap Czech CD version of this, looking for great DVD version, would you give this DVD above a strong endorsement? (only money right)

    This is not a modern abstract "euro trash" performance ist it.....
    Not a Eurotrash weirdo version at all, although a kind of stone/rock metaphor runs very strongly through it, it's done to death actually, but it doesn't spoil the production.

    I would buy it just for the act two with Marton and Stemme, it was so moving it broke my heart, even though I don't really enjoy Martons's voice, but she is just perfect in the role.

    This is the end of the act, i couldn't find the bit that made me cry, but it gives you and idea of the production.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    This is very good stuff indeed. Ok, maybe Anja Silja was too old when this DVD was made to play a woman that sexually is so desirable that no man can resist her. On the other hand, she's supposed to be 337 years old in this opera, so from that perspective.......sorry Anja. Nah, seriously - she was 55 when this was recorded and she looks in spectacular shape. Vocally she's a bit past her prime here, but not to such a degree that anyone but the most critical person will hold it against her. Anyway, this lady is such an impressive performer, has such a presence on stage that all that simply doesn't matter! Despite her age I can very easily imagine that guys half her age (or less) would fall for her just through the strenght of her personality alone.

    It's an Anja Silja show, but none of the other characters in the opera disappoint. Both in terms of the singing and (especially) the acting this is a winner. The production? To tell you the truth I hardly took notice of it when Silja was on stage, but it didn't bother me, so I suppose it must be ok. Good opera, good cast, decent production, awesome prima donna.
    Martha doesn't signal when the orchestra comes in, she's just pursing her lips..

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    I'm about to watch this. Only 1 h 38 min so I'll edit my post once I'm done.



    Chatêlet productions are usually visually amazing so I have great expectations. It has started, and looks lovely!

    OK, finished.

    First of all, the opera itself. I liked it quite a lot. This is a very interesting opera with the deep contrast between the lush, sensual animal kingdom with their easygoing approach to life and death (e.g., the main character gets killed and nobody makes a fuss about it), and the bitter human world with people constantly lamenting lost love and old age. The orchestration is quite efficient, and very precisely tied up to the action. Beautiful! And what an ending! The gamekeeper's ode to nature is very striking. And the frog in the last scene demonstrates to him the cycle of life... and how oral tradition ensures continuity: "It wasn't me... it was my grandad... they told me everything about you." Wow!

    Now the production: very good indeed. Outstanding costumes, colorful and lively, the choreography transmits exactly the chaos of the natural world, good acting, charming little vixen, excellent gamekeeper. Eva Jenis, Hana Minutillo, Thomas Allen, and Richard Novak are the principals, and each one does a more than decent job.

    I can't comment too much on the orchestra and on Sir Charles Mackerras' conducting due to the poor sound quality (see below) and my lack of contact with other versions of this opera, but at least one can tell it was very well timed to the action - like in a fabulous scene in which the Gamekeeper shouts and the orchestra responds like an echo of his voice - what a beautiful effect!

    The props are a little too simple in the treatment of the trees (one wonders why they didn't employ there the same creativity they had exhibited with the costumes), but there are some visual pearls as well, like the bed on which the vixen and the fox mate.

    Sound is not great (only a regular stereo track with some balance problems); there are no extras; camera work is not imaginative enough to match the fabulous staging; and sometimes the image is too dark. So technically this isn't a great DVD by any means (this is one of the examples of a production that was likely much more enjoyable in the theater than on a small screen), but the positives still outweigh the negatives, therefore I can confidently recommend this one.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Nov-02-2010 at 04:01.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    This is on my UWP, looking forward to it.
    Last edited by mamascarlatti; Nov-02-2010 at 08:47.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Boulez+Chereau=

    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by World Violist View Post
    Boulez+Chereau=
    Still a bit cryptic WV. Would you recommend this?
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    Still a bit cryptic WV. Would you recommend this?
    Of course he would! This is pretty good material! Masterpiece level.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    Still a bit cryptic WV. Would you recommend this?
    Yes.

    Blah blah blah about too few characters... I have plenty of character!
    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

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    Senior Member Herkku's Avatar
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    Default Janacek on DVD and Blu-ray



    Hello to everybody!

    I just joined the forum I found yesterday. I have been looking for a forum that would deal with opera on DVD, so I hope this is the place to be! I also spent a few hours screening through the messages sent so far to get an idea what has already been gone through.

    But my first question is: how does one begin a new thread or do I always have to use the reply-button? I didn't find any option to start a new one, so how does this work? As one continuing discussion? No new threads for a new opera?

    I trust that someone will give an answer to that. It seems that there aren't very many members, but the regular ones are all the more active. Suits me perfectly. It's not the quantity but the quality that matters and perusing the forum I have found many DVD:s that have wetted my appetite, the French Baroque operas e.g., none of which I have seen, or heard on CD, for that matter.

    But let me begin with an opera I just finished watching: Leoš Janacek's From the House of the Dead. Not the jolliest work to begin with, it just happened to be the one I saw last. It's also the last collaboration with Boulez & Chéreau, whose Ring doesn't have many admirerers among the members, but we can leave that for later.

    From the House of the Dead is indeed quite grim, based on a story by Dostoyevsky of a prison camp in Siberia in the nineteenth century and that was the context Janacek must have had in mind. Well, in Chéreau's production, Stalin's prison camps come to at least my mind, but what's the difference?

    I would like to describe the opera as scenes from prison life in general, as there is not a single plot that would carry on through the opera. Some of the convicts tell their own tale about why they ended up in prison, there are disputes, fights, even deaths among them, the brutality of the guards. And there is even entertainment performed by the inmates for the inmates as pantomime. I am not sure if this kind of performances were in Janacek's mind (or Dostoyevsky's!), but I must warn you that it's openly sexual in nature, both male and female parts performed by the male prisoners. So, it may offend some watchers, although everyone knows what goes on in prisons. They certainly didn't have special visiting rooms for couples... There is only one role for a woman in the cast and she is described as a prostitute, and has a only a couple of lines to sing.

    So far, this may not sound like an opera that one would like to see or hear. But, for me at least, Janacek's music redeems it all. At it's best the orchestral score is even beautiful, and if the overture includes rattling of chains, it's not inappropriate. There are no arias as such (nothing to whistle on your way to work or to set as a ringtone on your cellphone), but Janacek obviously had the same kind of talent to compose musical dialogue for singers as Puccini (I may be stoned for writing this!), tying the rhytm and line of speech together with the melodic line to achieve the effect that one is left wondering, why don't we always sing. In fact, Janacek died only four years after Puccini, and the opera was left unfinished (like Turandot!) and completed by his desciples. The singers are good, there are a couple of names you may be familiar with: Olaf Bär, Heinz Zednik, John Mark Ainsley.

    I must admit that Janacek has other operas that may well be more easily to come to terms with: Jenufa, Katya Kabanova, Cunning Little Vixen. Jenufa and Katya are also very stark and violent, Vixen a little gem of a fairytale.

    Summa summarum: I won't say that you should rush to the nearest record store to buy this one. You wouln't want to view it every other week. But, if you can find it at a library, you might give it a chance and decide for yourselves. How many novels and movies and TV serials (Prison Break was one of my favourites!) have dealt with life in prison? Why not operas? I wonder, when and by whom an opera depicting life in Guantánamo will appear.

    P.S. This is not to mean that I wouldn't love the more classical repertoire! Quite the contrary! I love my Monteverdi, Mozart, Gluck, Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini and Strauss. It's only that I'm incurably curious, and if curiosity killed the cat, I seem to have survived - so far!

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    Senior Member Herkku's Avatar
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    Default Katia Kabanova



    This was a complete revelation to me! I mean in a positive kind of way. I had heard the Mackerras recording once, but didn't pay much attention. Now, just listening to the orchestra, I realize how beautiful music this is. The vocal lines are much like what we are used to in modern operas, but there is beaty in them, too, especially those of Káťa/Katia/Katya.

    This production comes from The Teatro Real, Madrid, 2008. The stage is water, which seems to be all the rage nowadays, this time representing Volga, but works fine. After having been very disappointed with Karita Mattila's Tosca that I recently saw on TV, here she is in her element. And I don't mean the water, although she has cited swimming as her hobby - good for the lungs! She is in a glorious voice. The only other name familiar to me Katia's husband, Guy de Mey - also very good. In fact, there are not weak links among the singers.

    The story itself is not that remarkable. Katia is unhappily married to Tichon, who is totally under the beck and call of his mother, Kabanicha (Dalia Schaechter), who in turn treats Katia like dirt. In Tichon's absence, Katia meets Boris and an old flame is rekindled. Upon his husband's return, Katia confesses her unfaithfullness and just loses it all - and we have a mad scene ending with Katia drowning herself!

    Some backround information from Kobbe: Janacek's wife from his early marriage left him within a year, but at the ripe age of 63, he fell in love with a 25-year-old married woman, Kamila, who apparently inspired him greatly for the rest of his life. This happened 1917 and the opera was composed between 1918 and 1921. Long live love!

    Strongly recommended!

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Janacek: Kata Kabanova on DVD



    Given how impressed I was with the first two Janacek operas I've seen, Jenufa and The Cunning Little Vixen, I think I'm in for a treat. We'll see.

    Well, technically speaking this DVD is horrible. 4:3 image, poor sound balance, no surround, subtitles are fixed in English only, no extras. And the subtitles seem to simplify things a lot, since whe a character sings a full and long phrase, the subtitles translate it into just one word.

    It's a Glyndebourne production but strangely (I got accostumed to expecting wonders from them), the staging is rather dull, and the pink, blue, green pastel colors just don't go well with what is going on in the story.

    Singing and orchestra are marred by the poor sound balance and distant, muffled sound.

    I hope Janacek's opera itself saves the day.

    -----

    OK, I've finished it. Here is my final verdict, regarding the opera more than the production: it's a good opera with effective orchestration, but in my opinion it is not as good as the other two from him I had seen before, and it comes from it being so short (under 90 minutes). It all happens in lightning speed, with not enough time for character development or build up of dramatic tension. Married girl has bitchy mother-in-law and drunken, abusive husband. A few side kicks show up with their side stories but aren't that important and their subplots go nowhere. Husband goes out of town in business, she has an affair. He comes back, she gets guilty and confesses. He beats her up, bitchy mother in law humiliates her, she wants to leave town with lover but he doesn't have the guts to take her. She kills herself. Curtain.

    You know, 90 minutes could have been sufficient, but then, maybe Janacek and his librettist could have eliminated all the non-essential characters from the play and focused on the love triangle and the mother-in-law, with more time for the development of the psychological drama, because when you think of the 90 minutes minus the time wasted with the side plots (who cares for the lover's uncle, for the maid, for the adopted sister and her lover, etc) there is precious little time to get to 'Kát'a's desperation, ambivalence, and slow derailment. The core of the story feels very rushed the way it is. Opera takes longer to tell a story due to the singing which is slower than spoken dialogue, so, what may have been sufficient for the play seems rushed for the opera. Unsurprisingly, the best moment of the opera is her longer monologue at the end, the only part when she was given enough time to express her feelings. I'd like to have had more of these moments and less of the distracting junk.

    Jenufa also has several other characters but it focuses a lot more on the four important ones - Jenufa, the two brothers, and the mother. And the Cunning Little Vixen is just very lively and varied, and the fact that there isn't big focus on any one character is meant to convey the cycle of life and the nature/humankind opposition. But Kát'a Kabanová could have used more focus. For an allegory of natural versus civilized life, no focus is needed, but it's hard to tell a psychological drama without focus.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Janacek: Jenufa on DVD

    Wow. Have you guys seen this?



    Nina Stemme is a Jenufa for the ages. She puts together one of the best operatic performances by a soprano I've ever seen in my life, no kidding (another one, since I also loved her as Isolde). This is epic. You won't believe it, so good it is! Brava, Nina!!!!

    Not to forget that Eva Marton as the Kostelnicka and Silvasti as Luca were almost as good. This was a powerful trio of singing actors, who portrayed their roles to the utmost perfection, both vocally and in terms of acting.

    OK, I should say that not all is good. It's not Sir Charles Mackerras with the baton, unfortunately, and it's not Janacek's orchestration, but rather that of Kovarovic, so Janacek's music lovers should better stick with the CD with Mackerras and the Wiener Philharmoniker, with Elisabeth Södeström in the title role (there's even a small part for Lucia Popp). But that performance is not on DVD, so... I know that there is a Glyndebourne one which I haven't seen, and I hear that Roberta Alexander was a fine Jenufa there as well, but sincerely, I doubt that anybody can do better than Nina Stemme these days.

    In this Liceu production (which is with the same staging that was shown recently at the Met) the staging has its moments but the boulder metaphor could have been pushed down our throats less insistently.

    But I'm talking purely about Nina Stemme's Janufa. It justifies the price of the DVD three times over. It's a must buy!!!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Wink nice...

    How many operas could you get? 6, 7?

    What about some rare operas as Mr. Brucek (I love this little opera)...Go to Premiere opera or the House of opera...

    http://premiereopera.com/search.aspx...lse&category=2

    Do you want to chose one among 100 versions of Jenufa?

    http://search.store.yahoo.net/yhst-5...-5204590820466

    Sometimes versions suck. The image is awful and no subtitles or nice Cantonese subtitles...But if you know the story and are adventurous as me...GO!

    Other times, the image is ok...But English subtitles are rare...(if you speak German and French and Japanese and Spanish and Fiinish you are probably safe)...And not OR.

    But they are so cheap...the risk isn't that big.

    Best of lucks.



    Martin, adventurous.

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