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Penderecki;Krzysztof Devils of

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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Perfect Music April 13 2008
By A. Mena - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
The music in this dvd is simply gorgeous. It's complex, terrific, sarcastic, cynical... just one of the best operas of the second half of the last century. The libretto is also great, as it creates a dark landscape of sorrow and despair (just like a hell). It also achieves creating a myth, that only the best ones (Strauss and Hoffmannstahl's, Wagner's, etc.)achieve at doing.
Tatiana Troyanos as Jeanne is amazing, and the conductor Marek Janowski manages to create a rich amount of sounds from the orchestra.
Too bad the film direction is not as good as the rest, although has some pretty good ideas.
Anyway, it's a very recommendable dvd. Penderecki's music is worth every dollar/euro.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Goos Testimony Nov. 27 2010
By Garnier Eric - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I just can simply say that this recording is the only testimony we can afford if we have to study on Penderecki's work (for the CD recording is not avaible any more or at a outrageous price...)
It is weird and gloomy, however there is no reason to steer clear of it =)
Perhaps the staging is not always true towards History. Anyway, what Penderecki and his libretists made of that historical episode is remarquable (in the meaning it must be watched and discovered)

The performance in itself is quite catching, the lipping technique is not always obvious. So every feeling is well given on screen.
Staging is also well built enough to make this work terrifying, oppressive, frightening and horrible (the scenes "buffa" with the two scientists where pseudo-science is melt with religion making something even more striking than it could be).
Please don't feel reluctant towards this opera for those reasons. Considered as a whole, it is worth discovering =)
24 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Spare yourself! Oct. 19 2007
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I've given this "opera for TV" five stars, but I urge you seriously not to watch it. It's extraordinarily painful, and enough pain will come your way without the help of music and cinematography. Still, anything that disturbs me so strongly must be potent art in its way.
This is a depiction of dementia (as in possession by demons), sado-masochism, flagellation, torture, and burning alive at the stake. It could, I suppose, be perceived as an indictment of religious depravity and the corruption of organized faith. It is certainly depraved, but I take it to be more a portrayal of the torment of religious doubt, the hideous psychological self-hatred innate in a religion of guilt and redemption. The composer, Krzysztof Penderecki, if I remember correctly, went through a religious crisis and "conversion" not long after writing this opera. The visual and verbal impact of this film are much more powerful than the music, if that matters to you. I defy you to remember a musical passage, or to forget the image of the gleeful torturers.

It was filmed in 1969. I would have said, before watching it, that the world has become a more violent and tormented place since then, but The Devils of Loudun has reminded me of the dark and twisted anxiety many of us lived through in the era of nuclear nightmares, Vietnam, the Zodiac and the Zebra killers, etc. I'm glad I survived. I'm glad I have a few flower boxes to water and cultivate. I'm glad I'm not oppressed and perverted by any demons of religious dread. It's good to look at the hills and see millions of years of gentle erosion, to play with my son and feel proud to contain the whole sublime history of evolution in our DNA, to look at the sky and see only stars, not devils nor gods.
Above all, dear reader, you are not required to suffer through Penderecki's obsession; some art is optional. There are plenty of other options.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An avant-garde classic April 21 2013
By James A. Altena - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It should be a source of shame to Philips that it has allowed its studio recording of this great operatic masterpiece by the man who is arguably the world's greatest living composer (marking his 80th birthday this year), to go out of print. Unfortunately, Arkivmuisc also has not seen fit to reissue it, and, with the recent appearance of this complete film version on DVD, any reissue is less likely than ever, which is why the rare used copies of the CD set always command a premium price when they surface.

In terms of quality, the studio recording has superior sound to this film version soundtrack. The vocal casts are identical with one exception: the secondary role of Jeanne d'Armagnac is sung by Joachim Hess in the Philips CD set and by Karl-Heinz Gerdesmann in the Arthaus DVD set. The video version is in many ways compelling, but also rather kitschy in places in an oh-so-late-60s style that now provokes mirth. (The opening scene, where Urbain Grandier seduces the nuns in what is supposed to be soft-core eroticism for that time, is a real hoot.) Overall, I think this is in some ways a score whose power actually comes across better by being heard rather than seen, leaving the listener to fill in his own visual impressions if he has the imagination to do so. However, this film version is very gripping and well-executed -- easily the best of the 1960s Hamburg Opera productions to be issued on DVD -- and will commend itself to anyone interested in this work.

The score itself draws upon every resource in Penderecki's sonorist arsenal of atonal aural effects -- microtones, gliding and sliding pitches, dense tone clusters, violent discords, use of exotic instruments (even an electric bass guitar), including an enormous battery of percussion. This is definitely not music for anyone whose stylistic boundaries are demarcated by Turandot, or even Peter Grimes. I myself am none too keen on many of Penderecki's early works (I simply cannot stand the famous Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima), but his greatest sonorist compositions before his much controverted "return to tonality" in 1976 -- particularly this opera and the St. Luke Passion -- are truly landmarks of 20th-century music which all lovers of classical music should encounter and wrestle with, even if in the end they cannot enjoy them.

As for its subject matter, it is indeed a harrowing parable of sin, punishment, and redemption, as the lascivious priest Grandier unexpectedly morphs into a Christlike figure who, in suffering torture and execution upon the false charge of facilitating demonic possession of a group of nuns, atones not for his own sins through his brutal trial, torture, and execution, but in so doing both bears and exposes the sins of the society in which he lives as being demonically possessed in its own way. Given both its context of creation (Communist-governed Poland) and the personal convictions of the composer (who had recently fervently re-embraced the Roman Catholic faith) I am also convinced (though I admit this is personal conjecture) that the opera is a heavily disguised, searing indictment of Communist totalitarianism, especially developments in several Communist countries during the 1950s and 1960s in which previous leaders suddenly fell from grace and became victims of the regimes they had helped to create and over which they had acted as rulers, in a debased and corrupted society increasingly based upon informers, orchestrated denunciations, show trials, and apparatchiks ready to turn upon one another in an instant to advance their own careers and/or preserve their own hides. Penderecki's compositions are to 20th-century music what the novels of Alexander Solzhenitsyn are to 20th-century literature -- great humanitarian protests to the dignity of man against the indignities of ideological tyranny -- and should be heard and studied accordingly.