Gentle viewer – watch this – or at least check your discs for faults – immediately
I was pretty shocked to see that a goodly number of the reviews of this on Amazon were from people who found 1 or both of the DVDs were faulty. Somewhere along the route of pressing there has clearly been a major problem, and I feel very sorry for those affected. An error rate of nearly 40% is alarming and I guess will leave people reluctant to buy this, which is a shame, as the opera itself is delightful.
I was lucky enough to catch this ‘Live At The Met in HD’ showing, early in 2012, and it was one of the highlights of that season for me, so I was delighted when a fellow reviewer alerted me to the release of the DVD. And especially delighted as there was a delay between buying the DVD and settling down to watch it, that I wasn’t one of the ones who had faulty discs
And so – to the actual delight of the piece itself:
And I’m pretty well as enchanted as I was, on seeing it ‘live’ last year. It is a brilliantly showy, inventive production, using works from Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, Purcell, and other less-well known composers, and an outrageously playful mash-up libretto from Jeremy Sams. The story combines Prospero, Miranda, Ferdinand, Caliban, Ariel and the island from The Tempest together with the four lovers from Midsummer Night’s Dream. And then some – enter a missing character – Neptune, given the imaginative buildup of a stage full of flying mermaids, the only accompaniment possible really, given the casting of Placido Domingo as Neptune
Full of wonderful comedy and oozily saccharine Broadway moments the lovers from Midsummer Night’s dream enact all the delicious comedy brought in by Ariel-as-Puck getting it wrong with who falls in love with whom, but there is also room for deep pain, transformation, betrayal, and true forgiveness. And the various musical pieces accommodate all this.
There are also lots of nods to a couple of Mozart operas – the 4 lovers of course from The Dream, recast into Cosi Fan Tutte, but more obviously, Prospero and Sycorax, Caliban’s mother, given some wonderfully showy arias, bring elements of Sarastro and Queen of The Night to mind.
Stand out, for me, is David Daniels, the countertenor voice giving Prospero a real power and strangeness, and Joyce Di Donato, as Sycorax singing her heart out, with music ranging from the firework cracking spectacle to deeply tender and intimate. Indeed, the most tear jerking aria was the quiet ‘Hearts that love will all be broken’ which Sycorax sings to her son – a painfully touching performance by Luca Pisaroni, who almost steals the scene without uttering a sound, through his piteous body language and expression.
I can’t miss noting another highlight – the ‘quartet’ (the lovers from The Dream) are not headlined, but for me a showstopping, heart-filling moment was Hermia’s aria, which opened Act 2, beautifully and intensely sung by Elizabeth DeShong. Listening to this aria I stopped breathing, transfixed by emotion
On watching the DVD I had a few slight ‘ouch’ moments which I hadn’t noticed ‘live’ – because I was so swept up in excitement – every now and again some of Danielle de Niese’s top notes are a little snatched, and the clump clump of Prospero’s boots infiltrates the music at times. And as a Brit the singing of short American ‘a’ sounds rather than long received pronunciation long ‘a’ sounds – yours to command’ rather than ‘yours to commaaand’ irritated, as the longer, more open vowel just sounds better to my ears. But these are really minor points of personal preference.
The production team of Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch absolutely guarantee inventiveness, magic, theatricality. And they deliver. What more could anyone want? There is even a lasciviously rude goatish goblin ballet, Helena as a slightly dippy hippy botanist, and a plethora of visual delights, sumptuous costumes, extravagantly lush and inventive staging and design, beautifully acted, as well as sung, performances – and of course, the music, the music, the music
I heartily recommend this – keeping fingers crossed you get the 60% discs that work, not the 40% that don’t.
Now, if only the Met would release a video of the real standout of that 2011-2012 season for me – Glass’ Satyagraha, to replace the only recorded version available, which is a technically poor one, I would be permanently ecstatic!