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Berlioz: Les Troyens

Daniela Barcellona (Didon), Lance Ryan (Énée), Elisabete Matos (Cassandre), Giorgio Giuseppini (Panthée), Gabriele Viviani (Chorebe), Stephen Milling (Narbal), Eric Cutler (Iopas), Dmitri Voropaev (Hylas), Zlata Bulicheva (Anna), Askar Abdrazaov (Priam), Oksana Shilvoa (Ascagne)
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana & Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana, Valery Gergiev
Staged by La Fura dels Baus
Filmed at Valencia Palau de les Arts, 2009 [261 minutes including How to Make video]

Unitel Cmajor 706104 Blu-ray

Having enjoyed a sampler of highlights from the futuristic Ring from Valencia*, conducted by Zubin Mehta abd staged by La Fura dels Baus with a lot of machinery and aerial singing, here is another spectacular staging by La Fura dels Baus, this time conducted by Valery Gergiev, who does well with the orchestra.

But there for us it stops; for the rest, more pictures than words. Costuming is derisory, the singing is variable to worse, and so is the staging plus videos etc [R & below].

It all seems to us like sub-standard sci-fi filming; laughable at rare best, the costumes and stage trickery off-putting for the most part...

Dido's tomb is covered with active computer screens which finally catch fire...[L]

There are technical problems for us too; our iMac computer's DVD player rejected it; on our large Home Cinema set up, the menu was miniscule and lacked the usual Chapters to choose, nor could we get subtitles without upsetting the picture.

I'm sure you'll be better off with Opus Arte at Paris Châtelet**, Sir John Eliot Gardiner's period Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique & Yannis Kokkos, stage director) [R].

Peter Grahame Woolf

* P.S. June 2011 The whole of the Valencia Ring is now being shown in UK by Sky Arts 2 TV, each evening, and seeing the La Fura dels Baus staging of Valkure leaves me puzzled as this is convincing and truly exciting, whereas the Les Troyens has completely failed to catch our interest.

Comments from readers will be particularly welcome. [Editor]

**- - the handsome three disc DVD set from the ever reliable BBC Opus Arte - - picture and sound quality are superb, with sensitive TV direction from Peter Maniura capturing faithfully the epic yet suitably modernist staging by veteran Yannis Kokkos, resident in Paris for some thirty years. In the pit we have our own John Eliot Gardiner, so both fans and detractors will probably know what to expect. Tempi are swift and rhythmic control clam tight - - - I find it a credit to Gardiner and his period forces that I was never bored, indeed quite often found myself marvelling at the orchestral detail and originality of the scoring.[Music Web]

Wagner - The Ring at Valencia


Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana/Zubin Mehta
La Fura dels Baus/Carlus Padrissa
Video creator/Franc Aleu
Full cast at C+Major/704608
Highlights - Unitel Classics DVD 704608 [130 mins]

This amazing production of "A Ring for the 21st Century" from Valencia's new opera house has been enjoyed on Sky Arts TV and we have been supplied with a Highlights disc for consideration.

It is the newest attempt to tackle the Wagner collosus in contemporary terms "for a young, 21st C audience familiar with the visual language of Star Wars and Harry Potter" and, predictably, it has both video wonders and some sillinesses.

Some of us may jib at the mechanical constructions, especially machines which rise and lower like fire-fighters ladders, pushed around by assistants on stage, which give another dimension to the on stage movements of the Wagnerian opera stars, with microphones in front of their mouths...

But you get used to all that, and some of the creations are wonderful, especially the water-filled tanks representing the Rhine, in which the Maidens immerse themselves and come up for breath unperturbed, singing beautifully.

All in all, this Ring gives new life to the tetralogy for those of us who have become tired of more conventional productions and disenchanted with some of the late 20th C experiments.

Musically, all is in the safe hands of Zubin Mehta, who notes his admiration for the flexibility of the stage direction, with Padrissa an ideal collaborator, one who is willing to make changes right up to the last stage of rehearsals.

The 130 mins excerpts from all four parts + documentaries will serve you to decide whether to acquire the whole; if in doubt, I'd advise YES, because many of the scenes need to be taken at greater length than the excerpts here, which sweep you into the new visual world of La Fura dels Baus, a group dominated by the amazingly inventive stage director Carlus Padrissa, a man of prodigious, teeming imagination, which you can see at full play in the bonus extra Carlus Padrissa - The Visionary...

And Franc Aleu, whose breathtaking video images take you in his far too short Painting with light into his specialised cutting-edge world of the video creator. He suggests plausibly that Wagner was anticipating film before it existed, and that now film and video are becoming integral parts of opera, the most all-embracing of all the arts.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See representative reviews of this Ring as a whole at Opera Today "Ingenious in execution, musically satisfying"
& Washington Post "enjoyable, not excellent".