Of our seven new audiovisual releases this month, three are devoted to Italian operatic masterpieces by Monteverdi, Cilea and Verdi, while drama (in German) from Deutsches Theater Berlin’s production of Schiller’s Maria Stuart contrasts with The Royal Shakespeare Company’s presentation of the Bard’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor. The Royal Ballet showcases the dazzling talent of principal dancer Vadim Muntagirov, and Ariane Mnouchkine’s iconic film Molière is resurrected in both DVD and Blu-ray formats to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the French playwright’s birth.
Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo was premiered in 1607 and is the oldest opera still performed today. The narrative is based on the Greek legend of Orpheus who, armed only with the weapons of music and love, descends into Hades in an attempt to bring his lost bride Eurydice back to the living world. The opera’s dramatic power is brought to life in this acclaimed production conducted by the great Monteverdi expert and interpreter Jordi Savall. Filmed at the Opéra Comique in Paris L’Orfeo features a virtuoso cast with the service of text and music always at its core.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0152V)
Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur was inspired by the real-life story of a celebrated actress at the Comédie-Française who was much admired by Voltaire. Hailed as a masterpiece, the opera was triumphantly staged in cities around the world after its premiere in 1902. The dramatically effective narrative is a passionate love triangle filled with intrigue and complicated plot twists set in the gallant 18th century. Its subtle ironies and gorgeous cantabile style of music provide a perfect vehicle for the star cast in this stunning production from the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0153V)
The composition of Un Ballo in Maschera caused Verdi many problems. What began as an opera called Gustavo III was subject to censorship by the Neapolitan and Roman authorities, so its libretto, location and title all changed. The subject, however, is still the murder of Riccardo (Gustavo) at the masked ball, couched in a musical language in which the seriousness of Italian opera is infused with French vivacity. The opera’s structure is carefully symmetrical in the great terzets, and the themes of duty, pleasure, drama and humour are rendered with masterful clarity.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (57937),
Disc and Streaming (CDS7937.03)
Double-meanings, disguises and dirty laundry abound as Sir John Falstaff sets about improving his financial situation by wooing Mistress Page and Mistress Ford. But the ‘Merry Wives’ quickly cotton on to his tricks and decide to have a bit of fun of their own at Falstaff’s expense…
The Merry Wives of Windsor is the only comedy that Shakespeare set in his native land. Drawing influences from British 1930s fashion, music and dance, this production celebrates women, the power and beauty of nature, and with its witty mix of verbal and physical humour, rejoices in a tradition that reaches right down to the contemporary English sitcom.
Directed by Elle While (Hamlet, As You Like It), this production stars Olivier Award-nominated Bryony Hannah (Call the Midwife, The Children’s Hour) as Mistress Ford, Sarah Finigan (Suffragette, Upstart Crow, Globe on Tour) as Mistress Page, and Pearce Quigley (Detectorists, Hamlet, As You Like It) as Falstaff. The Windsor Locals appear courtesy of Soldiers’ Arts Academy, London Bubble and Clean Break.
Spoken in Shakespeare’s English.
One of the finest dancers of his generation, Vadim Muntagirov has twice won the Best Male Dancer at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards as well as Dance Europe’s Outstanding Dancer Award and the prestigious Benois de la danse.
Since joining The Royal Ballet in 2014, he has excelled in many of ballet’s most celebrated lead roles, as well as proving his skills as a sensitive partner to some of The Royal Ballet’s most revered stars. This special collection brings together four of his most show-stopping performances.
In The Sleeping Beauty, Muntagirov’s elegant classicism shines as Prince Florimund, and in Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, his heartfelt characterisation brings eloquent depth to the impassioned pas de deux between Manon and Des Grieux. Described as ‘technically thrilling’ (The Guardian), Muntagirov’s performance as Count Albrecht makes the quintessential Romantic ballet Giselle powerfully resonant today. In delightful contrast, his cheeky performance in Coppélia reveals a wonderful flair for comedy.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7306BD)
Mary, Queen of Scots, is taken prisoner and sentenced to death by her cousin, the Queen of England. But Mary remains a figure of light even inside her prison cell. She is able to count on her loyal followers. The result is an intrigue woven into the male-dominated fabric of politics and religion in which the protagonists are caught between love and the desire for power: a blame game couched in impressively clear language.
With 120 actors, 600 participants, 1300 costumes, 220 sets and after two years of work, this film tells the fascinating story of Molière, and of his century, in four hours. How did this young boy, born in 1622 to an upholsterer and a loving mother that he was to loose too soon, become the prodigious actor, and univerally acclaimed author so well, and yet so little known? From his childhood to his death, we follow Molière and his travelling companions, in their joy, misery and glory throughout a savage yet refined XVIIth century France, sharing their first theatrical adventures, their successes and failures, their valiant struggles and moments of cowardice.
This familiar and spectacular saga where the devout clash with the libertine, and famished peasants with wigged courtesans, is about the life of an honest man who exhausts himself in an unceasing struggle to practise his art in a century filled with repression and violent hypocrisy.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (BAC803)