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Prokofiev;Sergei War and Peace

Nathan Gunn , Olga Gouriakova , François Roussillon    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 140.93
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good try but ............................. Jan. 29 2007
I know this work very well from CDs, but this is the first performance I have actually seen. Perhaps some disappointment is inevitable, particularly if you know the book as well or the absolutely stunning Bondarchuk movie. Shoe-horning the vast scope of Tolstoy's vision into less than four hours of music and onto the stage of the Opera National de Paris is a near impossible task and as brave an attempt as this performance represents, I believe it falls short in a couple of key areas.

The good first. Nathan Gunn and Olga Guryakova perform creditably in the key roles of Prince Andre and Natasha Rostova, even if Gunn just fails to fully capture that heady mélange of sensitivity, self discipline and unshakeable belief in the importance of honour that should manifest itself in the brittle aloofness that Tolstoy described. He comes across more as an agrieved poet than a soldier with artistic sensibilities. But at least he looks the part and sings convincingly. Anatoli Kotcherga gives us a suitably monumental Kutusov and Vladimir Matorine brings to all three of his cameo roles, Tikhon, Matvelev and Balaga, that larger than life Russian peasant earthiness. Amongst the supporting cast special mention must also go to Margerita Mamasirova as Sonia, doubling as Murat's aide de camp, and Mikhail Kit as Count Rostov (doubling as General Bennigsen).

The bad. Helene is absolutely not the part Tolstoy wrote. She is openly, rather than subtly, sluttish, a man-eater instead of the emotionally-atrophied dumb blonde the writer gave us. Kuryagin is a non-starter for me as the womanizer who steals Natasha's heart. Go to the Bondarchuk movie for the real thing.

And the ugly. Robert Brubaker has a decent voice but in the central role of Pierre Bezoukov he is laughably miscast.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best opera DVDs yet Jan. 2 2004
By A Customer
If you're interested in opera, in Prokofiev, in theatre, you must have these DVDs. I bought them for a friend this Christmas, to whom I sent the following message, which is not a detailed review I admit, but sums up my opinion:
"I swear to you these are absolutely the best opera DVDs I've ever seen. You watch them like a movie. You're hooked. The singers are good-looking. The lighting is superb. The costumes are outstanding. The scenes are shot like paintings. You're proud of the Opéra National [author's note: we both live in Paris] and glad to pay income tax. I saw the same opera at the Met - not at all the same result: dime-store sets, badly-cut costumes, ridiculous extras..."
This, I believe, is one of those rare productions in which nearly everything is right and what's more, any shortcomings it may have had in the theatre (Nathan Gunn was a little under-powered for a theatre the size of the Bastille, for example) disappear in the DVDs, while things such as costume detail (pretty amazing) come to life.
The reasons to have these DVDs are therefore several. They're a record of a great modern production (this is really one of Francesca Zambello's most successful); the performance is at a high level; they offer an example of what the Paris opera, with the generously unstinting support of the happy taxpayer, can achieve at its very best; they're as gripping as any movie...
For all these reasons, jump at them. By the way, I have no financial stake in this venture whatsoever!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Jan. 3 2004
Even though it's a difficult work to perform (the documentary proves that), what a wonderful theatrical work this is! If it were translated into English, shortened a bit, it could go on Broadway as another Les Miserables (several scenes were reminiscent of Les Miz). Why isn't this opera more popular? Just the music alone is outstanding. Also the acting was superb. You believed the cast were the people they were portraying; they weren't merely going through the motions. War & Peace deserves to be on anyone's top ten opera list, and I'd have to say this particular version is the best recorded live opera I've seen.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! Dec 4 2003
By T. C.
War and Peace is one of Prokofiev greatest works. It was written after he returned to Russia and developed a more lyrical style. This opera has some of the loveliest melodies he ever composed.
This DVD from the 2000 production in Paris offers an overwhelming experience.
Olga Guryakova is an ideal Natasha. Nathan Gunn has a warm and beautiful baritone and gives a wonderful performance as Andrei Bolkonsky.
All other members of the enormous cast are impressive too.
Francesca Zambello directed a highly effective and moving show.
Sound and picture quality are exemplary. Highly recommended.
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