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Purcell;Henry Dido and Aeneas [Import]

Sarah Connolly , Lucas Meachem , Wayne McGregor    NR (Not Rated)   DVD

Price: CDN$ 35.99 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A triumph for Covent Garden... Nov. 22 2009
By Charles G. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Although I wanted to see Sarah Connolly again after her searing portrayal of Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne, I really bought this DVD to see baritone hunk Lucas Meacham as Aeneas. He and Mariusz Kwiecien currently share the world's stages as the hottest Don Giovannis, and, with his luminous blue eyes and seductive, lyric baritone, Lucas creates an Aeneas worthy of suicide.

But, this is really Sarah's show, in which she delivers an exquisitely crafted Dido, complete with puffy eyes to emphasize her turmoil. Her final aria "When I am laid in earth" is a thing of uncommon beauty, not only because of the tasteful and welcome ornamentation, but because of a phenomenal commitment to text. There is not one moment throughout her entire performance in the opera that doesn't display the ultimate in poise, talent and concentration.

With the exception of the chief sorceress, the other roles are ideally cast. Belinda (Lucy Crowe) is young, blonde and beautiful, and has a voice to match. The two witches are bound here as siamese twins and bring a bit of humor to the proceedings. So integral and expressive is the chorus that you welcome its every appearance.

The hidden treasure of this production, though, is the dancing. Director Wayne McGregor provides some powerful choreography that bridges the scene changes, comments on the action, and at times just takes your breath away. Members of the Royal Ballet provide the stage with visual electricity, elevating the dramatic experience to a whole new level.

The photos on the DVD box show a minimalist production that makes use of strange, colorless costumes, wide, empty spaces, and drab sets. But, don't be put off by those...what may seem sparing visually actually serves the opera's origins as a modest chamber work. Some color does find its way through, eventually.

Christopher Hogwood and the OAE not only provide ideal accompaniment, but set the tenor for unbridled success.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great performance by leads is overshadowed by other flaws Dec 24 2011
By Lawrence A. Enos - Published on Amazon.com
I looked forward to seeing this production, which had so much going for it: Purcell's wonderful music, the usually high production standards of the Royal Opera House, and Christopher Hogwood's wonderful handling of Baroque music. Add to this the fine performances of the leads (Sarah Connolly as Dido and Lucas Meacham as Aeneas), this could have been a 5-star production. But while I didn't mind the somewhat minimalist scenery or the general staging, I found Wayne McGregor's use of the dancers distracting and inappropriate for this classic opera. (Why do modern choreographers have to spoil things with erratic and spastic movements that jar with beautiful music? At times, the dancers seemed to be trying to rid themselves of parasites or insect pests. And while I didn't mind the singers' costumes, the dancers' athletic garb made their presence on stage seem at odds with the music.)

This said, I did enjoy the performances of the orchestra and most of the singers. Connolly's and Meacham's singing and acting were first-rate. Her rendition of Dido's Lament was very moving. And I appreciated Meacham's clear diction. There is nothing more disturbing than listening to an opera in a language I understand (e.g., English) and having to turn on subtitles to understand the words. Unfortunately, not all of the singers were as clear. I did need the subtitles to understand Lucy Crowe (Belinda) and the chorus. Moreover, Crowe's voice seemed a little weak for such an important role. And what appeared to be her attempts to minimize vibrato in her voice--in keeping with PC standards for performing early music--made her voice sound flat at times. Still the sorceresses were very good and the other cast members were fine.

All in all, I enjoyed this production despite its faults. Still, I think it could have been better.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Awkward mix that doesn't jell Feb. 1 2010
By Robert Baksa - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
After being disappointed in the recent "Dido" with Maria Ewing (see my review of that) I sought refuge in this newer production. The DVD features an interview with the director which offers nothing to clarify his concept of the piece. Little of what he says makes much sense to me. Against the painfully minimalist sets the realistic emoting of the principles strikes a jarring note. A more restrained approach would have worked better to my mind. Even worse are the minimally clad dancers whose weird gyrations seem totally out of character for the rest of the production. Sarah Connelly is a great singer and she does a wonderful job but the supporting cast is not as satisfying as the aformentioned filmed version. There are a few interesting touches in this live performance but it feels too much like three different shows that don't really fit together. If only the current crop of stage directors would stop being so damned clever and just do their job.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let the triumphs of love and of beauty be shown. Jan. 6 2011
By Zac R Cocciolo - Published on Amazon.com
It is an odd musical irony that one of the greatest pieces of opera ever created is in a language almost entirely unsuited to the form of singing. I did not expect to like this as much as I did. This play is musically and dramatically almost perfect. The minimalism of this opera is so damn striking. It is something like a haiku in how it is so compact, yet vivid, and pragmatically suggests nothing more than itself (thanks Tarkovsky). In the extremely minimal words of the piece (if spoken, this could be performed in about 10 minutes) are able to, almost like magic, suggest and bring about emotions much more complex than the words really allow. Nahum Tate's libretto is so economic it's almost eerie; music, obviously, adds much of the depth and meaning, but the strikingly minimal phrasing, poetic yet simple verses, and dramatic symmetry are as much in the libretto as the music. The outward simplicity of composition makes things even more sparse and striking. From "Come away fellow sailors" to "Fear no danger" to the absolutely soul crushing "When I am laid in earth" this play seems to run a full gambit of human experience in its tiny tiny frame. I haven't gotten to any of the most important points or said anything to really reveal the piece in writing, but I don't think I can do that at all. This music, this drama, is ineffable, divine in every sense of the word. At first it doesn't seem like a whole lot, but there's such warmth and sincerity and LIFE...

The production matches the opera quite perfectly modernizing and abstracting in a way extremely far and away from most tacky modernizations. The sets are monumental yet minimal; the costumes are timeless yet ancient-feeling. The director really knows what he's doing, especially with his choreographed modern-ballet pieces-- which are extremely angular and quite engaging. It takes a little getting used to at the beginning, but even then, the best dances are in the latter half of the play anyway. The camerawork is done with restraint and variety, making sure as much is as visible as possible without getting too static. There is one unnecessary and kind of stupid thing in this production but it is something about the way they did the ending (everything else about how the ending is done is perfect, just ONE THING... you'll know it when you see it).
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dido and Aeneas Feb. 28 2010
By E. Apuzzo - Published on Amazon.com
Director and choreographer Wayne McGregor has a very interesting take on this classic Greek story. The story of "Dido and Aeneas" runs the range of emotions: from hesitant and happy to vengeful and desperate. If for some reason Henry Purcell's musical drama is unable to transport you through these feelings, The Royal Ballet provides a visual interpretation that I found very effective. The dances seem more modern than classical ballet, which appealed to me. During "Oft she visits this lone mountain" the dancers are almost doing sign language for a very literal presentation. While on the visual side of things, I must comment on the technical production and staging. The costumes and lighting are very pleasant. I enjoy the color palette used as it allows the colorful emotions to shine through without a distracting light show or costumes. The single spotlights are used sparingly and tastefully each time. The way McGregor chose to stage the chorus was also nice. Too often opera choruses can be staged in a way that pulls attention from the leads. In this case he really sticks to the Greek tragedian way of presenting the chorus. Chorus Master, Stephen Westrop, does a lovely job directing the chorus. The vocal nuance and dynamics are well approached. Lucy Crowe, as Belinda, does a beautiful job on all of the agile passes. At times her dramatic interpretation is a bit campy, but fortunately, that is not the case throughout. Sarah Connolly, as Dido, has such a substantial voice. Her rich and creamy sound is exactly what I want to remember as the piece comes to a close. Overall, the piece is very fluid and well presented.

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