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Handel: Admeto on DVD

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Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post

My dear friend Natalie loves this, so, I approached it with high expectations.

2009(LC) - Nicholas McGegan - FestspielOrchester Göttingen

Admeto - Tim Mead
Alceste - Marie Arnet
Ercole - William Berger
Orlindo - Andrew Radley
Trasimede - David Bates
Antigona - Kirsten Blaise
Meraspe - Wold Matthias Friedrich

Mamu Dance Theater - Solo dance and choreography - Tadashi Endo

Staged by Doris Dörrie

Technical quality of this product: impecable. Perfect Hi-Def image (a blu-ray is also available) with vivid colors in 16:9 format; PCM stereo and DTS 5.1 sound with excellent balance; sutbtitles in Italian, English, German, and French, bonus feature with a 21-minute film on Baroque and Butoh dancing; insert with short essay and synopsis in English, German, and French.

Staging: Very interesting. The director is Doris Dörries of Cherry Blossoms fame. She has staged this Händel opera with a Greek mythology subject matter in a Japanese Samurai culture setting. The images are stunning, although some parts have humor that I find to be misguided and distracting (such as the scenes with the sheep), and some satirical costumes fall flat in my opinion (such as Ercole's ridiculous Sumo wrestler padding).

And then, I have some strong feelings about the use of boobs in this staging.

I haven't read all the credits attentively, so it is possible that at some point there was a phrase saying "no boobs were harmed during the making of this production." Fine, but then, you have to consider psychological damage as well.

Boobs are very delicate things. They are the most beautiful creatures on Earth, and they deserve worship, adoration, gentle squeezes and licks, and they must be displayed in all their glory.

Instead, Ms. Doris Dörries has allowed lovely naked boobs to be displayed by grotesque characters like the ghosts and spirits in the opening scene (people with crossed eyes and evil looks), and even worse, displayed by sheep!

I know, I know, isn't it despicable? I mean, lovely boobs being displayed by women disguised as dumb sheep??? Get out of here, Ms. Dörries, have a sense of eroticism, please!

Boobs are deservedly narcissistic creatures. I'm sure that these otherwise finely shaped boobs were deeply hurt by being forced to appear in such disgusting ways. Yeah, right, your lawyers must have inserted the phrase about no boobs being damaged; I'm sure they weren't physically hurt, but no self-respecting boob will fail to feel psychologically devastated by the way she was treated in this production!

Rest assured, Ms. Dörries, that I'll be talking to my lawyers, and to the AAABB (the American Association for the Advancement of Beautiful Boobs). You'll get a knock on our door one of these days, you boob hater!!

Conducting, orchestra - period instruments, competent conducting, very appropriate (no fireworks, though).

Singing: homogeneously good, but again, no big thrills. The male alto in the title role does a good job. Everybody sings beautifully.

The opera itself: lovely, of course. It is Händel. Has Händel ever composed anything that is not sublime?

And here is where this production doesn't earn my praise as much as it did for Natalie: doing it the Japanese way doesn't make it memorable per se.

The problem with staging Händel operas is that they are *all* very good. One after the other, you have this gorgeous vocal music, this thrilling orchestration, these finely nuanced characters, this good dramatic/theatrical impact.

But the problem with them being all so good is that then, each single one seems to be more of the same. When I try to rank the dozen operas by Händel that I know, I tend to be a bit confused; they are all so similarly enjoyable!

This is why, in my opinion, there are so many rather extreme stagings of Händel's operas. I believe that stage directors feel that they have to rescue the piece and make it somehow unique, as opposed to the consistently good, always sublime, always reliably beautiful operas that Händel used to churn out, one after the other.

Case in point, the spectacular, dynamic, thrilling, vivacious, lively staging of Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne.

Has Ms. Dörrie achieved the same effect here? I don't think so. Transposing the opera into Samurai culture is not enough, as strikingly beautiful as the images are. You need more intensity, more dramatic power, and this staging for me is more visually stunning than substantial.

And then, there is the misuse of them lovely boobs, dammit!!!

I give to this production a score of about 85, or B. Recommended. But not highly recommended (which I reserve for those that I score at 90 or more, or in other words, A- or more).