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Thread: Purcell on DVD and Blu-ray

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Default Purcell on DVD and Blu-ray

    For reviews and discussions of the operas from Henry Purcell.
    Last edited by jhar26; Dec-25-2010 at 15:28.

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Well I don't think this is entirely Purcell's Fairy Queen, but it was riotous fun and the music is, predictably, enchanting. Yvonne Kenny was gorgeous as Titania and there was plenty of eye candy for the girls (Tom Randle in skin tight trousers, and rather a grown up Little Indian Boy). I think I'm going to have to get the new Glyndebourne version to get a more authentic reading of this though.

    Just one thing- why do these cheapskate DVD labels not think to include subtitles in the language of the opera, or even a short synopsis in the liner? Arthaus and Kultur are the worst in my experience.

    Luckly I found a libretto on the internet.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Default Purcell on DVD and Blu-ray



    I've been watching the first three acts of this acclaimed and award-winning production (two acts still to go). Very, very strange. I think it's either brilliant, or dreadful. Or maybe it's dreadfully brilliant. Or brilliantly dreadful. Half of me can't wait to watch the second disc; the other half wants to throw it away.

    The music is superb, but there isn't enough of it. There's a great deal of spoken dialogue, and I find it quite hard to adjust between the dialogue, the dancing, and the sung passages. I no sooner get into one kind of groove than the thing switches gear and I have to find another. (The producer, in an interview, tells us that this is necessary because otherwise it would all just wash over us, but I'm much in favour of these things washing all over people, so I don't know what he means.)

    The costumes of the fairies are tantalisingly mysterious - on the edge of wicked - and I'd like to revel in that, except I don't, because their predominant colour is black; and because a lot of the action is taking place at night, that means one heck of a lot of the visual field is black, nearly all the time. So I find myself straining to see a lot of the time; and yet if the costumes were white, that atmosphere of wicked mystery would be lost - I can see that.

    And I can see too that the work is itself a hotchpotch, but somehow the production seems to emphasise its hotchpotchness in annoying ways. Having watched the production start in the 17th century, I just can't abide the subsequent arrival of Bottom, Quince, and their crew dressed in modern boiler suits. I want to throw tomatoes and boo. It isn't funny, it's crass. And yet while thinking all that, I find myself berating myself for being too stick-in-the-mud, and telling myself not to be so uptight about all this, and thinking that maybe Purcell would have thought this was OK, actually.

    Do I seem confused? It's because I am. Just don't get me started on the copulating bunny rabbits.

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elgarian View Post


    I've been watching the first three acts of this acclaimed and award-winning production (two acts still to go). Very, very strange. I think it's either brilliant, or dreadful. Or maybe it's dreadfully brilliant. Or brilliantly dreadful. Half of me can't wait to watch the second disc; the other half wants to throw it away.

    The music is superb, but there isn't enough of it. There's a great deal of spoken dialogue, and I find it quite hard to adjust between the dialogue, the dancing, and the sung passages. I no sooner get into one kind of groove than the thing switches gear and I have to find another. (The producer, in an interview, tells us that this is necessary because otherwise it would all just wash over us, but I'm much in favour of these things washing all over people, so I don't know what he means.)

    The costumes of the fairies are tantalisingly mysterious - on the edge of wicked - and I'd like to revel in that, except I don't, because their predominant colour is black; and because a lot of the action is taking place at night, that means one heck of a lot of the visual field is black, nearly all the time. So I find myself straining to see a lot of the time; and yet if the costumes were white, that atmosphere of wicked mystery would be lost - I can see that.

    And I can see too that the work is itself a hotchpotch, but somehow the production seems to emphasise its hotchpotchness in annoying ways. Having watched the production start in the 17th century, I just can't abide the subsequent arrival of Bottom, Quince, and their crew dressed in modern boiler suits. I want to throw tomatoes and boo. It isn't funny, it's crass. And yet while thinking all that, I find myself berating myself for being too stick-in-the-mud, and telling myself not to be so uptight about all this, and thinking that maybe Purcell would have thought this was OK, actually.

    Do I seem confused? It's because I am. Just don't get me started on the copulating bunny rabbits.
    Damn. I have this production, and was about to run home and watch it, until I got to the part about the copulating rabbits. What is wrong with regietheater these days? It's getting out of control. One of these days I was watching a traditional staging - wait, not just traditional, but supposedly period staging - of Weber's Der Freischutz - and then suddenly out of nowhere comes a 6-ft tall ************ bunny. I went - What the.... ?
    "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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    I cannot possibly recommend this production of King Arthur. It takes appalling liberties with the story and sometimes the music (although Le Concert Spirituel and the singers are largely impeccable), it replaces Dryden's three hours of spoken dialogue with heavy-handed Gallic humour and farce, involving false Norwegian skiers, real barbecues and Hervé Niquet in lederhosen performing Tyrolean songs. It is terribly silly and I enjoyed it nearly as much as the performers. I think everyone else will hate it and it is guaranteed to bring Alan out in hives.
    Last edited by mamascarlatti; Oct-13-2010 at 19:45. Reason: spelling
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Damn! Should I sell it as "brand new, opened but never watched" for a couple of bucks less than the selling price for a new one?
    The pressure of recommendation (or not) is considerable in these situations. I woke this morning in such a grumpy mood, conscious that I'd wasted 4 hours of the previous evening, conscious that I'd wasted a significant sum of money, but most of all, conscious that this could so easily have been wonderful. There's no shortage of effort, goodness knows. It's not as if they didn't try hard. But the naff artistic decisions present (for me) uncrossable hurdles. Part of the problem is that no one seemed to have decided whether it was a variety show, a play, an opera, a farce, or a panto, so they just bundled it all together to leave us to decide. And in principle, that's OK - I can see that Purcell almost invites such a treatment. But the opportunity seems to have been used just to be silly. Silly in a smart-alec, postmodern, sort of way: 'Look at us, we can survey centuries of theatrical and musical history, pick out whatever bits we like, and stick them all together to make such a very clever scrapbook of it all - and y'know it's only for a laugh, wink, wink.'

    My impression is that the Glyndebourne audience loved it. But I was scratching my head in irritated puzzlement while they laughed at the jokes, so I don't quite know what that means! Some of the individual musical performances are wonderful - no kidding. I can't find anything to criticise on that score. The sets and effects are ravishing: inspired, even. But the overall effect of watching it is like opening a parcel expecting to find a beautiful book, and discovering that someone has stuck pages from a tabloid newspaper in it, scattered throughout at random. The marvellous bits would still be there of course, but it'd be impossible to get over the obstacle presented by the destructive character of the insertions.
    Last edited by Elgarian; Oct-13-2010 at 10:25.

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    I think everyone else will hate it and it is guaranteed to bring Alan out in hives.
    But your pain was worthwhile, just because of the laughing pleasure it brought me to read this.

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


    I've been watching the first three acts of this acclaimed and award-winning production (two acts still to go). Very, very strange. I think it's either brilliant, or dreadful. Or maybe it's dreadfully brilliant. Or brilliantly dreadful. Half of me can't wait to watch the second disc; the other half wants to throw it away.
    I was reluctant to purchase this after scanning youtubes and choking on the high asking price......now I have purged it from the buy basket.

    In the long run that money will find another opera easy enough, just delayed the process a bit

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Watching this. Filmed version. Not bad, even though Maria Ewing looks too old for the role, especially when compared to her young Aeneas (eye candy for Natalie and Annie), and her voice shows wear and tear as well, but the fact that it is a filmed version is actually benefiting her voice. Although I've never been particularly fond of her voice, she is a very fine actress (a curiosity: it runs in the family, she is the mother of the young British actress Rebecca Hall who was in Vicky Christina Barcelona, whose father is director Peter Hall). Other principals can act too, so, it's a rather satisfactory version. Anyway this opera is so beautiful that it is not easy to screw it up, and so far so good, although I'm a little worried about what Maria will do to the Lament.



    Wow, I got to the witches and it is an effective scene, with good singing and convincing witches.
    Well, I should warn you that there is something odd about this filmed version: no ballets at all, which isn't right when you're doing Purcell.
    But overall the rendition of the music is good, most principals are good looking and can act, and visually it is not bad at all.

    Edit - just like I feared, Maria Ewing delivered a weak Lament.

    Here is a much better version:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOIAi2XwuWo
    Last edited by Almaviva; Nov-05-2010 at 15:26.
    "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
    Watching this. Filmed version. Not bad, even though Maria Ewing looks too old for the role, especially when compared to her young Aeneas (eye candy for Natalie and Annie)
    Dido is a widow and a queen, she's not some young untried thing. The problem here is that the Aeneas is too young, but I'm not complaining.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    Dido is a widow and a queen, she's not some young untried thing. The problem here is that the Aeneas is too young, but I'm not complaining.
    Yes I guess you're right. But the additional problem is though that her voice is too old for the role.
    "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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    Quote Originally Posted by Elgarian View Post
    Part of the problem is that no one seemed to have decided whether it was a variety show, a play, an opera, a farce, or a panto, so they just bundled it all together to leave us to decide.
    Alan, but it's not the fault of the production, it's *Purcell's work* that is like this. It's semi-opera, or masque, the predecessor of Restoration Spectaculars. It *is* a mix of spoken dialogue, dance, music, and visuals. It was staged exactly as intended, with flying actors, elaborated scenery, etc. Another one by Purcell is King Arthur.

    I can't find anything to criticise on that score. The sets and effects are ravishing: inspired, even.
    Yep. Ravishing and inspired. And funny, and sexy, and wildly imaginative.

    I found this production absolutely brilliant. I had almost 4 hours of intense fun. This is wickedly entertaining, beautiful, sublime. And the interview with Christie is a gem.

    (For those who haven't been following: we're talking about the Glyndebourne production of Purcell's The Fairy Queen)
    Last edited by Almaviva; Nov-07-2010 at 03:18.
    "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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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    No watch it watch it. I want your opinion too. Please?
    Natalie, sorry that it took so long. I watched it today. Spectacular. A sure 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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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Natalie, sorry that it took so long. I watched it today. Spectacular. A sure buy.

    Would like some further comment.......what makes this spectacular?

    Are you saying it as as good as Les Indes Gallantes, the youtubes I have seen make me cautous

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    Would like some further comment.......what makes this spectacular?

    Are you saying it as as good as Les Indes Gallantes, the youtubes I have seen make me cautous
    Maybe not as good as Les Indes Gallantes just because The Fairy Queen is a much more complex work, but even though it's a bit of apples and oranges, I'd still rank it up there with the most entertaining and well produced opera/related genres DVDs.

    I did provide a little bit of more comments in the previous post, but basically, this work is masque or semi-opera so it's quite "busy" with lots of things happening, not all of them being coherently oriented to tell a story, and many of them being non-musical, but this production managed to make of the whole something fairly well united, and all the parts were masterfully presented. You get fabulous Purcell music with good singers, effective theater, impressive visuals, funny bits, good scenery, sexy people, good actors/actresses; in summary, it's very entertaining, and I watched it all with a smile from beginning to end, and had wild fun for three and a half hours.

    Don't be turned off by YouTube bits, because this is the kind of work (again, being it semi-opera) that only makes sense when you go through the whole thing. For instance, there are long stretches of spoken dialogue that seem more like a play, and there are long stretches of zany comedy kind of The Full Monty style, but then, there are *also* extremely beautiful stretches of more operatic material, and some of the scenes are so musically and visually beautiful that my jaw dropped (the kind of beauty that was in Les Indes Galantes - just, there's much less of it in The Fairy Queen because of the space taken by the other elements - but when it's a matter of beautiful operatic scenes, oh boy, they do deliver! - case in point, the scene with the red sky and the big spider when the Fairy Queen is preparing to sleep, completely fascinating).

    One needs to be in the mood for this kind of genre; don't go in expecting an opera, it's not an opera (for example, there is more than one hour in total of spoken dialogue). That's basically what turned off our friend Alan, but I think he failed to realize that this is the point of this genre, it's not exactly the producers' choice.

    Oh, and by the way, the copulating bunnies also turned off poor Alan... I found them cute and funny.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Nov-07-2010 at 15:16.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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