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Subject: Re: ENO's Magnificent "Death in Venice" (DVD)
From: "David M. Wagner" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:David M. Wagner
Date:Sat, 16 Dec 2017 03:30:21 -0500

text/plain (100 lines)

LOVED the Met Merry Widow! Snapped me out of a real funk.

I also think DiV is a great opera. Saw the original Met production in '74.

-David Wagner 

Sent from my iPhone

> On Dec 15, 2017, at 11:01 AM, G. Paul Padillo <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I could not listen to the Met’s “The Merry Widow” last night (or most nights) so to escape 
> the brutal New England chill, I decided to watch the 2012 revival of Deborah Warner’s 
> production of Britten’s “Death in Venice” for the English National Opera.  I have loved this 
> work since my high school days, and my appreciation of it has only grown to a point where 
> I’m beginning to think – despite Grimes/Budd/Gloriana/War Requiem all being at the top of 
> the heap - it may be one of Britten’s most ingenious scores.  
> Several weeks ago there was a discussion here about this opera being "dull" and/or 
> "uninspired."  I couldn't disagree more if I wanted to.  My dear, long-missed friend and one 
> time frequently marvelous list member, Ann Purtil credited the Met’s production as being 
> responsible for pulling her back into the world of opera.  So there’s that.  
> Even having only seen it on video, Warner’s is one of the most innovative, creative, 
> seamless productions I’ve seen in some time.  The integration of dance, movement, lighting 
> and acting are wed to Britten’s most unusual score in a manner that feels completely 
> organic.  There is nothing extraneous, nothing that does not serve and move forward this 
> beautiful tragedy to its heartbreaking conclusion.  
> As much as I loved the Aschenbach’s of Peter Pears and Robert Tear, John Graham-Hall 
> doesn’t portray the tortured “hero” so much as inhabit him entirely.  I felt I was witnessing 
> the disintegration of this character so intimately it bordered on voyeurism.  Onstage nearly 
> throughout, Graham-Hall sings with the required refined elegance Britten demands here, 
> but it is his integration of myriad facial expressions, reaching gestures of limbs combined 
> with that voice that reflects Aschenbach discomfort with life.  When he speaks of his dead 
> wife and recently married daughter, it is shot through with an inherent sadness I’ve never 
> before noticed – or at least paid much attention to.  Graham-Hall elevates this brief moment 
> to the point where it feels like the raison d'être for all that transpires from start-to-finish.  
> Here is an artist at the height of his powers delivering a performance that will haunt me to 
> the grave.
> Aschenbach being onstage nearly throughout and having the lion’s share of the text, “Death 
> in Venice” is oft-dismissed as a one-man show, which is about as far from the mark as it 
> gets.  This performance gives us Andrew Shore – who, within minutes – made mincemeat of 
> my initial reservations.  He brings to brilliant life all of the disparate characters, tying each 
> to the other with the genius of a master storyteller.  Ultimately, his is the sinister, guiding 
> hand on the complex, confusing, road to hell.  
> Tim Mead makes a chillingly handsome appearance as Apollo singing in what could easily be 
> called “heldencounter.”
> Former Royal Danish Ballet dancer (and current Boston resident) Sam Zaldivar is perfectly 
> cast as Tadzio making not only plausible, but understandable Aschenbach’s obsession.  He is 
> appealing in his naturalness and his execution of the difficult, at times wildly acrobatic 
> choreography of Kim Brandstrup.  Brandstrup’s dance and movement charge this difficult 
> work with a fluidity that ripples throughout and he and Warner manage to magically 
> maneuver a large company of chorus, actors, dancers and principals through the opera’s 
> many scenes and locales in an almost dizzying fashion.  
> Edward Gardner leads the ENO forces through this amazing score with a master’s hand, 
> ever a judicious balancing act of percussive, piano, orchestra and wordless chorus who in 
> concert create a painting for our eyes and ears.  This is the first time I’ve experienced this 
> opera where I felt it almost springing directly over centuries from Monteverdi to right now.  
> The-house audience remain rapt and silent for close to a minute as all of us watch Tadzio 
> elegantly pirouetting into the blinding sun as Aschenbach slumps into his final sleep. 
> For those unfamiliar with this opera, I can’t think of a more appealing way to remedy that 
> situation.  For fans, you owe yourselves the opportunity to experience this one.  It is 
> magnificent.  It is available on DVD, or "for free" for Amazon Prime members.
> I recently learned Warner’s production was slated for New York City Opera, but was 
> ultimately nixed.  That would have been something. 
> p.
> **********************************************
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