Monday, November 21, 2005


I ordered this video from House of Opera because it promised “lots of nude men all the time.” Well, maybe not all the time. It also promised Renée Fleming singing in Handel’s Alcina at the Paris opera, with Susan Graham as Ruggiero and Natalie Dessay as Morgana. 

After all the fuss over Pamela Rosenberg’s production of Alcina in San Francisco, I wanted to see what honest to god Eurotrash looked like, and I must say they do produce a much purer product. This is much trashier. Pamela had Alcina changing her outfit for every scene, and that was about it. The premise is that Alcina has seduced a long list of men and then enchanted each one, turning them into rocks and trees. In this production they stand, or lie or wander zombie-like around the stage in various stages of undress, from fully clothed to fully unclothed. This is a concept production. They are frozen and unselfconscious in their enchanted state. There is no magic to counter the enchangment--Ruggiero takes a dagger from Alcina and she plunges herself onto it in suicide over her failure to seduce him. When she dies, the magic is gone, so the first thing they do is put all their clothes back on. 

According to Rough Guide, Alcina was intended to provide competition for Farinelli who was performing for a rival company in London that season. I must say Susan Graham makes a very fetching boy toy, and manages some quite good singing as well. Renée sings well, too. She really sinks her teeth into Alcina. 

Oh well. Maybe I’m not really the Eurotrash type. The film appears to be pirated, or “non-television” as HofO describes it. P.S. When I give such a high rating to a HofO DVD, it is for the content, not the quality of the product. The singing is superb and the nude men are also nice.


Paul said...

I've only purchased one DVD from House of Opera. Compared to commercial products I found the quality appalling. Nonetheless it's the only "Robert le Diable" on DVD. Given the perpetual prejudice against Meyerbeer here in the States and the likelihood that this opera would be performed in my lifetime anywhere I could afford to travel and see it (essentially: zero), it was almost a requirement that I buy it. I'm guessing that it was videotaped off French TV in the early 1980s and subsequently converted to disc. It's not visually terrible, but it's a good thing that I know the score so well since the sound reproduction is plainly awful. Samuel Ramey as Bertram occasionally sounds as if he's singing from the bottom of a very deep well. And there's nudity (!) -- which I suppose one almost should expect from French TV -- during one of the two ballets in the opera.

Dr.B said...

Hi, Paul,
Appalling is the right word. This one is done with a hand held camera. It's for when you absolutely must see something. He is reducing his overhead and also his prices.