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Monteverdi;Claudio L Orfeo

 NR (Not Rated)   DVD

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Product Details

  • Format: Classical, Color, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: BBC / Opus Arte
  • Release Date: Nov. 15 2005
  • Run Time: 140 minutes
  • ASIN: B000BK53NS
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #134,533 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Effective High-Concept 'Orfeo' - The Best Yet Dec 21 2005
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This 'L'Orfeo' from a 1997 production of the Netherlands Opera has much to recommend it. It has a marvelous cast of singers, including perhaps the best Orfeo I've ever seen/heard in tenor John Mark Ainsley. The single set is very plain except for the round pool of water upstage. It represents, of course, in Act III, the River Styx. Much of the rest of the time it is either invisible, because of the exceedingly skillful lighting by Jean Kalman, or used for various symbolic purposes; the stage is often in darkness, a contrast with high-key lighting on the singers. Costumes are stylized robes in rich colors and fabrics. 'L'Orfeo' is, of course, an opera in which there is not much action, and stage director Pierre Audi has devised a good deal of action, particularly with the chorus, but also with the principals, that keeps them in motion much of the time. Visually this is interesting, even if the movements are often unmotivated by the characters' emotions or the sung text. In a sense this is a feast for the eyes as well as for the ears.

As for the musical presentation, it could hardly be bettered. 'L'Orfeo' presents significant musical challenges just in its realization because Monteverdi's score is so sparse in its specifications for instrumentation, harmonies and so on. This is a subtle realization by Stephen Stubbs, the musical director, and indeed he spends several pages in the DVD's booklet explaining some of his choices. He also speaks at length about this in the informative 'extra', a twenty minute documentary made during rehearsals for the production. The instrumental group is comprised of Tragicomedia (strings) and Concerto Palatino (brass), two ensembles well known in the arena of baroque music.

There is not a single weak singer (or actor, for that matter) in the production. Ainsley is an excellent singer in all repertoire he has essayed, but seems particularly so here. His long scene, 'Possente spirto', in Act III where he is trying to coax Charon to allow him into Hades to rescue and bring back to Earth his beloved Euridice, contains some of the most far-ranging virtuosic singing one will ever encounter in early opera, and Ainsley does it beautifully. It might also be pointed out that the scene's instrumental accompaniment (primarily organ and chitarrone) is varied meaningfully by interjections by other instruments -- violins, cornets, harp in all possible combinations -- to great effect.

Outstanding among the other singers are Juanita Lascarro as Euridice, Brigitte Balleys as La Messagiera, the impish tenor Russell Smythe as one of the Shepherds (and also as Apollo), countertenors David Cordier and Michael Chance as La Musica and La Speranza respectively, the appropriately cavernous-voiced basso Mario Luperi (what a voice!) as Charon, the glorious contralto Bernarda Fink as Proserpine. Also of note are bass Jean-Paul Fouchécourt as a Shepherd (and also as Echo), bass Dean Robinson as another Shepherd (and as Pluto). The cast is also notable for its general physical attractiveness.

There are a couple of other 'Orfeos' on DVD and this one, in my opinion, is the best musically and certainly the most visually effective, if a bit stylized (be warned, if that bothers you). I recommend it without reservation.

2 DVDs; TT=140 minutes; sung in Italian with subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Dutch; LPCM Stereo

Scott Morrison
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hear it! Think it! Oct. 21 2006
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
To complain that this staging of Orfeo is "cold and joyless" is like complaining that meteors are brief and only seen on chilly nights. Listen to the music! It's profoundly elegaic! It's not The Daughter of the Regiment. And Monteverdi's Venice was not The Renaissance Pleasure Faire.

This is a superb performance! The singers are nearly perfect, and the instrumental ensemble IS perfect. The only close competition for musical perfection on DVD is the William Christie version of Il Ritorno d'Ulises in Patria.If you love Monteverdi, you need this disk!
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Orfeo on dvd Nov. 28 2006
By Guntram - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I must to say;I have all L'Orfeo dvd's,including french Harmonia Mundi edition(Jacobs on La Monnaie,starring Simon Keenlyside)and I just can't see or to hear absolutely nothing "cold" or "sterile" in this really superb performance.In my opinion,this production just hit the mark by attempt to put Orfeo on his own tragic context.Some conductor's choices here regarding orchestral textures(sometimes just voices,like in a very gloomy madrigal)were crucial to this meaningful,very dark and unique Orfeo.Ainsley is nothing less than superb on the title role.He got the whole character to a superlative level,both in singing and acting(if Zanazi was a very poor actor to Savall and Keenlyside doesn't have the ideal singing technique to many of "virtuoso" Monteverdi's writing).Bernarda Fink,another strong reason to watch this dvd,just doesn't have competitors to her Proserpina.Chorus is in perfect involvement,orchestra plays fine and stage production accentuates the frightening death feelings on the Striggio's libretto.So,unlike that "cold and joyless" rewiew,I must to say here,just to be honest,that I don't believe in any L'Orfeo better this one on dvd at the present time.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Orfeo a Handel's cast in a Monteverdi's opera Oct. 4 2007
By Francesco Alvarez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This production from the Netherlands is breathtaking. The singers are great in their roles specially John Mark Ainsley who I have seen before in the documentary film "A nigth with Handel" (also highly recommended). Included in the cast are one of my favorite countertenors: Michael Chance (he also sings the main character in one of the two DVD versions available of Handel's Rodelinda) and the argentinian mezzo Bernarda Fink who specializes in Handel's operas too. This is not an easy opera to digest. In normal circunstances I would not recommend it to a person who is initiating in the world of opera. However in this particular production the staging is so effective (minimalist scenary, great costumes and ligthning) that anyone could enjoy it, even if does not fancy operas too much.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a voice teacher and early music fan April 25 2006
By George Peabody - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
HOW MANY MORE TIMES MUST JOHN MARK AINSLEY (ORFEO) CROSS THE RIVER STYX? BUT HE DOES IT SO WELL!!!!!

Monteverdi's L'Orfeo is considered to be the first masterpiece in the history of opera. Prior to this a handful of works by pioneers of the genre such as Peri,Cavalieri and Caccini explored the possibilities of the newly developed "musical speech" as it were.

The score of Monteverdi's 'Orfeo' was first printed in 1609, and the first performance was at the Mantuan court in 1607. A unique aspect of the score of L'Orfeo is its wealth of information about the use of the 'continuo orchestra'. It is this combination-the human voice of Orfeo and the 'heavenly lyre' which accompanies him- that established opera as an art form that continues to fascinate us today.

This DVD displays intense and refined performances by an experienced and inspired cast, led by a profound and commanding John Mark Ainsley (Orfeo-tenor). He is the legendary tragic musician and Ainsley is sustained in this role by the ensemble who performs with fluent ease and obvious affection. All of this is under the direction of a very capable Stephen Stubbs.

The story of Orfeo goes on and on through many varied composers who add and subtract details from the original ideas, but it retains the basic framework.

This is really a stunning production in every aspect; good singing all the way. Even the small parts are sung by great voices such as Michael Chance and David Cordier. I especially liked the performance of the Chorus; I thought their sound was indeed appropriate for the music of Monteverdi.

The beautifully styled, evocative stage production, rich with Pierre Audi's trademark symbolism, accentuates the solemn serenity of Monteverdi's most famous work to create a truly enjoyable and moving experience.

The packaging of the DVD is very concise and informative. Extra features on the DVD are: illustrated synopsis, cast gallery, introduction to the opera, including interviews with Stubbs, Ainsley and Audi. It is sung in Italian, and includes subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian.
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