27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I ordered this from England, so I received it before it was released in the USA. I wanted it because it was to be the only video which has all the music that Verdi wrote for the 1867 premiere in Paris (although it wasn't all performed at the premiere). Since I have the Châtelet performance from 1996, I thought that with having this new one, I wouldn't need the earlier one anymore. However, I was badly mistaken.
The Châtelet performance was billed at the time as "uncut", but I don't understand that, as the Opera Rara audio set recently issued was originally broadcast in 1972, and that performance contains not only the ballet music but also the introduction and chorus of foresters at the very beginning and the Act IV duet between Elisabeth and Eboli before "O don fatal," which are omitted in the Châtelet production. It is mainly the PRODUCTION in the Vienna performance, however, that I find objectionable, so much so that I if I ever play it, I will just listen and turn the TV off. The Fontainebleau scene is nicely done, however, with the foresters gathering around a stove and warming themselves in the cold weather. But even with just listening there are sounds in the performance which are not supposed to be there, such as when Carlos calls on the phone to order pizza during the ballet music, the words of the introducer for the autodafe, some sounds of disapproval from the audience during the autodafe, coughs from the audience, and the sound of Eboli screaming in agony in the Act IV crowd scene where she is stabbed in the back by an unknown assassin: a change in the plot which makes no sense to me except to add to the gruesomeness of it all. About the ballet, we are given instead of dancing a pantomime skit called "Eboli's dream," which consists of a comedy routine in which Carlos and Eboli are married and invite the boss and his wife (Philip and Elisabeth) over to dinner in a 1970's apartment. The roast chicken gets burned, so Carlos orders a pizza, which is delivered by Posa (dressed in a t-shirt with Posa's Pizza on the back.) (This is not too hard to take given the fact that it is supposed to be a dream.) The scenery throughout is just the same 3 walls, with low doors in the bottom that people have to stoop to get in and out of. The variation for the different scenes is just done through lighting. For the Châtelet performance reviewers in the past have not liked the sets, but I find them very good by comparison, as they certainly do bear some resemblance to the places they are supposed to represent. The costumes in the Vienna performance are for the most part right for the 16th century, except of course in the autodafe where the people are dressed in suits and evening gowns and holding wine glasses, and a few other places. The idea of having Eboli present during Philip's soliloquy and even when the Grand Inquisitor is there, and even having her hold an end of the Inquisitor's staff, seems to me laughable and to distract from Philip during his scene. As for the singing, Karita Mattila on the Châtelet set as Elisabeth is a wonder and of course much preferable to Iano Tamar; the others are comparable, with the pendulum swinging more to the older set. Bo Skovhus is good as Rodrigue, only the way he is dressed, wearing those modern style glasses, makes him remind me of a mafia type and hinders me from really listening to his singing. The Philip of Alastair Miles is especially good, and he really looks like King Philip judging from pictures I've seen.
I should also mention that both the Vienna set and the Châtelet set use the early version of the Posa-Philip duet, which is not nearly so dramatic as the later version in which Philip tells Posa that the Flemish people are enjoying peace under his rule, to which Posa replies very dramatically: Cette paix! La paix du cimetière! (in the Italian version: Orrenda, orrenda pace; la pace è dei sepulcri = Terrible, terrible peace; the peace is that of the grave). This is something I miss in both of these videos, as well as in the Opera Rara set, and in fact the only place where you can hear this in the French version is in the old DG audio set with Domingo, and Leo Nucci as Rodrigue and Ruggero Raimondi as Philip.
I'm going to try to sell my copy of this new video at the first opportunity.