Johan Reuter (Johann Friedrich Struensee) - Gert Henning-Jensen (King Christian 7) - Elisabeth Jansson (Queen Caroline Mathilde) - Sten Byriel (Ove Høegh-Guldberg)... - The Royal Danish Opera - Bo Holten, direction
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A Wasted PotentialJan. 1 2011
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Those FIVE (5) Stars are for encouragement of modern opera, for support of Danish composer Bo Holten. I could just as properly give this DVD ONE (1) Star since it infuriates me to listen to it. Notice that I said 'listen' rather than 'watch.' The visuals are excellent: striking costumes and staging, bizarre but effective make-up, camera work worthy of any movie cinematographer. But it's an opera! And operas are essentially music, and music is essentially sound, and the sound recording of this opera is hideous. Primitive. Unbearable. The singers sound so far backstage that one can hardly evaluate the timbres of their voices. Here we have HD TV on a vast plasma screen, with such perfect colors and such clear resolution that you can spot the plaque on the singers' teeth, but sound that wouldn't be acceptable over a Radio Shack walkie-talkie. Imagine the opposite: glorious five channel sound coming out of a 1960s 14-inch tube TV.
Remember the experience of taking photos on Kodakolor film under incandescent lights? What your eyes see looks 'natural' but when you print the pictures, they're all orange. Here's the analogy: when you attend an opera live, yes, the voices are distant but they sound 'right' to your brain. But if you recorded the opera with a mike where you were sitting, what you'd hear on playback would be dismally distant. With this DVD, we get a disconcerting inequilibrium of image and sound; the camera pans in and out, we see the singers in vivid close-ups, but the microphones just squat on their haunches in the rear of the balcony.
This might well be an interesting theater piece with impressive (though not especially novel) orchestration. But I'm too annoyed to discuss its merits. What a wasted opportunity!