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Raymond Tuttle
Classical Net, October 2005

This DVD preserves the famous Glyndebourne Festival Opera production of 1975. The design is by David Hockney, who has done The Rake's Progress in the style of Hogarth on LSD. The busy sets and even the costumes are cross-hatched as if they were engravings (which will create a "shimmering" effect on screen for some home viewers), and Hockney has added liberal splashes of pastel colors. In the Bedlam scene, Hockney places the chorus in what looks like partitioned jury boxes across the back of the stage - an interesting effect. On the whole, Hockney extends the distancing of the action from the observers that originated with the librettists and the composer.

Stravinsky abhorred writing vocal lines which go in the directions one expects them to, and this presents a challenge to singers. The challenge is met and conquered with bravado in this production. Ramey, at the beginning of his career, is a persuasive Nick Shadow, and he can condense utter malevolence into a single glance or facial expression. Goeke, is the personification of youthful innocence perverted; one cannot help feeling sorry for Tom, stupid or thoughtless as he might be. Lott brings lyric-coloratura sweetness to Anne. As the bearded Baba, veteran Elias (a great Carmen in her day) brings a still-fabulous voice and comic skill to this production. The smaller roles are excellently cast, and the chorus does no small part to add to the color and wit onstage. Haitink conducts with uncharacteristic point and energy.

Even though it is three decades old, the sound and video quality show few signs of age. The camera is not afraid to zoom in for singer close-ups, which adds to the immediacy of this production. (It probably looked chillier at Glyndebourne than it looks on TV.) All in all, this DVD is a very entertaining way to spend two and a half hours. My respect for this opera has increased greatly as a result of watching it.

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