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Thread: Berlioz on DVD and blu-ray

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    Default Berlioz on DVD and blu-ray



    Great singing, great customes (much better than in Gardiner's, realistic and good-looking), good staging and ballet scenes. But I didn't realize that Norman is that fat. Or is it just her custome? If so, I revert what I wrote, customes are not that great.

    And character of Dido is surely under some curse, singer that plays her here would be much more convicing in role of Dido's grandmother. She looks even worse than Graham did. When I'll watch it again I'll make sure to avoid all scenes with Dido, except necessary ones.

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post


    Great singing, great customes (much better than in Gardiner's, realistic and good-looking), good staging a nd ballet scenes. But I didn't realize that Norman is that fat. Or is it just her custome? If so, I revert what I wrote, customes are not that great.
    I've just ordered that one a couple of days ago. Glad about your mostly positive impressions.

    ...and Norman really is that fat.
    Martha doesn't signal when the orchestra comes in, she's just pursing her lips..

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    I've just ordered that one a couple of days ago. Glad about your mostly positive impressions.

    ...and Norman really is that fat.
    I was originally torn between this older Les Troyen and the newer Gardiner version, I went with newer one mainly for Anna Antonacci, she will hold my attention no doubt

    Jessie Norman
    Is not a good choice for visual media, felt the same way about MET Ring with Levine, why so many overweight people in opera especially Wagner opera

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    Jessie Norman is not a good choice for visual media, felt the same way about MET Ring with Levine, why so many overweight people in opera especially Wagner opera
    Funnily enough I don't mind Jessye Norman, she sounds so gorgeous and her face is still beautiful and she moves well.

    Sharon Sweet on the other hand has ruined perfectly good versions of Stiffelio and La Forza del Destino for me.

    Kiri has been talking about weight and says her fighting weight was 13 stone - she says you need to eat to have the stamina to sing.

    Life on the road, jetlag, restaurant food, the need for energy, late nights and late mornings, and lots of preparation work for roles would probably mean that it's even harder to keep trim if you are one of those people who likes their food and has an aversion to physical exercise.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Berlioz: Les Troyens on blu-ray



    This is a performance that was mostly flawless in terms of orchestra, conducting, most singers, and chorus.

    I found the acting rather good, especially Antonacci and Graham.

    I liked the staging very much, with the mirrors. I thought that it was clever and interesting. There were several successful ways of treating various scenes in my opinion - this is an opera that I love, and I wasn't disappointed with the solutions that they found as is often the case when you love a work too much .

    The flow of the performance was nice, with the chorus entering and leaving and moving on stage very well and the distribution of performers on the stage admirably well done, given that Les Troyens requires a particularly large number of people and stage directing can easily get overwhelmed with a too-crowded stage - they didn't.

    I liked the ballets, with the beautiful flying birds effect.

    I generally like minimalistic stagings and thought that this one was very tasteful, liked the colors, the lighting.

    The filming/editing was efficient and unobtrusive.

    Sound quality in my blu-ray disc was excellent, and the HD images were crystalline.

    The bonuses were interesting and informative, with extended and deep interviews with the main creators of the performance.

    In summary, for me, when you combine all these assets - most importantly and beginnig with a very well conducted opera with excellent singing - you get a top 5 product.

    ---------------------

    (This wasn't exactly a full review - it was an answer to a person who didn't like it - but I have edited out some parts to make it approach a little more the review format - still, just a few fragments, but like I said, I'll be digging around for what I said about the works of Berlioz on DVD, blu-ray and CD, and paste them here so once it is done, it may work as a review of sorts).
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    I liked the ballets, with the beautiful flying birds effect.
    What birds? Did I miss something?

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    What birds? Did I miss something?
    They looked like white paper birds that were waved around, carried by two dancers.
    "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 DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Some great work here, but also some real problems (for me)

    The problem is act 1 & 2 wardrobe which takes place in Troy, Trojans are wearing modern drab generic clothing (salvation army?) with no attempt to abstract historical models and soldiers enter Troy wearing Vietnam era army surplus with modern guns, oh my.....just seemed very poorly thought out and ruined some otherwise great visual staging effects.

    Then suddenly starting act 3 in Carthage it "seems like" they hired a new wardrobe desgner and now we have tasteful clothing that abstracts historical models and looks very appropriate, where was this enlightened person for acts 1 & 2.......recent MET Armida with Renee Fleming had very good abstracted historical wardrobes

    The rest is all good news and there are brilliant modern visual effects, acts 1 & 2 use bare stage with very clever mirror back wall and rear projected images that create all kinds of interesting illusions of space and show action off stage, trojan horse image is great effect and I was very impressed with this aspect of production..... I tried to ignore the baffling wardrobe choices and concentrate on my beloved siren AC Antonacci.

    Later acts have all cylinders working and is very impressive both singing and visual production. Picture quality on DVD was excellent although 3 DVDs are needed, and Gardiner orchestral work is excellent as usual.

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    The problem is act 1 & 2 wardrobe which takes place in Troy, Trojans are wearing modern drab generic clothing (salvation army?) with no attempt to abstract historical models and soldiers enter Troy wearing Vietnam era army surplus with modern guns, oh my.....just seemed very poorly thought out and ruined some otherwise great visual staging effects.

    Then suddenly starting act 3 in Carthage it "seems like" they hired a new wardrobe desgner and now we have tasteful clothing that abstracts historical models and looks very appropriate, where was this enlightened person for acts 1 & 2.......recent MET Armida with Renee Fleming had very good abstracted historical wardrobes
    The contrast with the costumes made sense to me and I think was done very deliberately. Don't forget Troy has been under siege for 10 years, and is a place of woe and foreboding, particularly with Cassandra wailing all over the place. Nobody can expect the clothes to be new and clean and light and airy, people are just trying to survive. Carthage is in contrast a place of properity and peace where the inhabitants can pay due attention to things like their garnments.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    The contrast with the costumes made sense to me and I think was done very deliberately. Don't forget Troy has been under siege for 10 years, and is a place of woe and foreboding, particularly with Cassandra wailing all over the place. Nobody can expect the clothes to be new and clean and light and airy, people are just trying to survive. Carthage is in contrast a place of properity and peace where the inhabitants can pay due attention to things like their garnments.
    I am complaining about the actual design of the clothes themselves, Trojans wearing modern "salvation army" clothes with pants and shoes like they just bought around the corner at local store.
    Then greek soldiers enter troy wearing vietnam camoflague with modern guns.....no no no



    Then act 3 we go to Carthage and all the sudden people are wearing tasteful abstracted historically correct costumes, like two different costume designers involved........

    AC Antonnacci was actually wearing abstracted historical wardrobe in act 1, 2 but for some reason they decided everyone else should go "modern"

    Last edited by DarkAngel; Dec-25-2010 at 23:40.

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    I doubt there is any good reason for which these customes are so silly, they probably didn't have enough cash/time to prepare something decent so they decided to pretend that it's all okay because soldiers are armed - details aside, who cares if they have spears or guns.

    And turn attention to black something that Aeneas and few others are wearing on their chests. It's shape reminds me of ancient cuirasses and makes impression like they would try to make as much as it's possible in "normal" way. It supports my theory.


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    Default Berlioz: La Damnation de Faust - Concert version on DVD



    Outstanding! There isn't a single note that isn't beautiful. The damn thing (pun intended) is exquisite from the beginning to the end. The orchestration has stupendous musical pictorialism (e.g. the thrilling tone painting in the ride to the abyss). There are hypnotic, dreamy moments. There is sublime romanticism. There are exciting moments of pandemonium (literally). The poetry is superb - what a libretto! There are excellent tenor, baritone, and mezzo arias. There is sublime choral music. The length of the work is just right. Nothing is superfluous, nothing is excessive, nothing is missing. This was conceived as a concert piece, therefore there is no recitatif, because the score and the arias tell it all. And it ends (like it starts) delicately and peacefully, instead of a big oom-pah-pah. Perfect! What a masterpiece!

    This version has superlative singing by all artists, and exquisite conducting.

    Absolutely first rate! A+!

    What I don't understand is why it doesn't enjoy more popularity and why it's relatively rarely performed or staged in its opera form. There are great theatrical opportunities in it, with nasty Méphistophélès (oh boy, he is despicable) and other assorted demons, a damsel in distress, taverns, forests, peaceful prairies... A good stage director would have lots of interesting aspects to deal with. Sure, it takes a big orchestra and chorus, but only four singers, and it only lasts 2 hours and 10 minutes. It seems accessible to most companies - not to mention the concert form. And it is so damn good, so why don't we see it everywhere?

    Maybe it is because of competition with the vastly more popular (but in my opinion vastly inferior) Gounod's Faust.

    One of these days I'll watch the staged version on MetPlayer.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Default Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini on DVD

    Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini.



    A+. The string of spectacular operas by Berlioz that easily find a spot among my favorites continues.

    I don't know how to highlight any arias since just like La Damnation de Faust I found it uniformly good from beginning to the end - without being as intense as the Damnation of Faust; this one is lighter, being it comic rather than dramatic - but it is lively and varied.

    Berlioz himself provided the best appraisal of his own work: "I cannot help recognizing that it contains a variety of ideas, an energy and exhuberance and a brilliance of colour such as I may perhaps never find again." I only disagree with the "never find again" part, as his subsequent works proved - this one was an early one.

    The extreme variety of this work according to some can be taxing - I read a critic saying that "the effect can be claustrophobic and exhausting, as the music piles on more harmonic, rhythmic and contrapuntal complexities than any ear can process immediately." Sure, it does pile on all that, but I don't find the effect exhausting at all, but rather exhilarating. It's a wild ride, and a very pleasant and entertaining one.

    The singing in my version - Salzburg 2007 conducted by Gergiev - was not stellar but it was adequate. Burkhard Fritz was in the title role; Maija Kovalevska - young Latvian soprano with killer legs (the most beautiful and sexy legs I've seen in a while in any opera, conveniently and thoroughly displayed in a mini-skirt in one scene) was Teresa, and Laurent Naouri whom I like a lot was Fieramosca. The Wiener Philharmoniker was impecable.

    Staging: this is the ultimate Eurotrash, stage-director-out-of-control production. Brace yourselves: there are robots (three of them, one just like C3PO), a helicopter, a shark, and a winged vehicle for a pop star Pope. And yet... and yet... it works. It gets to be charming and interesting in many ways. When I read the description of the staging and saw some pictures in the material that came with the DVD, I was completely convinced that I would throw up upon seeing it, but the whole thing ends up being rather enticing, to my deep surprise. Still questionable, of course, since Berlioz's opera is good enough without robots, but because the score is such a rollercoaster, I guess the even wilder staging was a good fit. And I'm thankful for that mini-skirt.

    I remain completely puzzled with the fact that Berlioz remains so marginal in the standard repertoire. Sure, his operas are hard to stage, expensive, unreasonably demanding on opera companies, and rather difficult for the singers - but they are the real thing: extremely exquisite and beautiful.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Default Berlioz: Béatrice et Bénédict on CD

    There is no DVD of Béatrice et Bénédict so I've listened to this CD, and I confess that for the first time I'm a little disappointed with Berlioz. Maybe it's the fault of the CD, which I found to be relatively bland, with correct singing but not exactly enthusiastic or remarkable. Maybe there are better versions, and I'll welcome suggestions.



    There is delicate and melodious music, and I loved some arias and duets, especially Vous soupirez, madame? ... Nuit paisible et sereine, the last one in Act I. I also enjoyed Je vais d'un coeur aimant, and a couple of others. The overture is nice.

    But there aren't many arias, duets, or ensembles to start with; the whole thing is full of recitativo secco.
    By comparison, the libretto of Benvenuto Cellini is a lot more exciting. I don't understand the those who say that the libretto for Benvenuto Cellini is vapid. Sure, it's not da Ponte, but it's not bad either. A lot happens: an attempt at kidnapping, a duel, a death, a strike, a race against a deadline, intrigue, rivalry, a capricious pope, and so forth. By comparison, in Béatrice et Bénédict nothing much happens. They are against marriage and pretend to disdain each other, then their friends tell them that they love each other; they believe it, and impulsively get married, curtain. That's about it. Somarone is an annoying character and is not in Shakespeare, while other worthy characters who are in the play are not in the opera. It's Much Ado About Nothing without the ado. It all feels rather insufficient. It's sort of pale when compared to the other highly dynamic and varied operas that Berlioz composed.

    Béatrice et Bénédict has some beautiful music since Berlioz doesn't know how to *not* compose beautiful music, but it is the lesser work when compared to his other three operas, in my opinion.
    "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 DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post


    Great singing, great customes (much better than in Gardiner's, realistic and good-looking), good staging and ballet scenes. But I didn't realize that Norman is that fat. Or is it just her custome? If so, I revert what I wrote, customes are not that great.

    And character of Dido is surely under some curse, singer that plays her here would be much more convicing in role of Dido's grandmother. She looks even worse than Graham did. When I'll watch it again I'll make sure to avoid all scenes with Dido, except necessary ones.
    I just did a quick watch on MET player

    Traditional production is very lavish spectacle especially sequence of presentation of the trojan horse, the elaborate dance numbers dwarf the modern Gardiner version (I like ballet in opera), although almost all male dancers hmmmm......if only we could remove the larger than life Jessie Norman (as cassandra) and replace her with the passionate firey AC Antonacci from Gardiner we would have a real winner

    Troyanos as Dido was not too bad especially for back when this was made, the abstract greek ships was nicely handled visual, overall could use some more abstraction and creative visuals (like the moveable rear mirrors for Gradiner) but I would probably choose this over the Gardiner version because it tells the story better for me

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