Notes and Editorial Reviews
Help, Help, the Globolinks!
Matthias Kuntzsch, cond; Arlene Saunders (
); Edith Mathis (
); Raymond Wolansky (
); William Workman (
); Franz Grundheber (
); NDR Children’s Ch; Hamburg State PO
class="ARIAL12"> ARTHAUS 101 281, mono (DVD: 71:00
Text and Translation)
Help, Help, the Globolinks!
was written for the Hamburg State Opera, and thus was first performed in German. This production is an extremely effective adaptation for TV based on the 1968 world premiere production. Because this was designed for studio television, the production contains many theatrical effects that would not be possible in the opera house—and in fact this is a model of how to adapt an opera for the television screen.
If only the opera were a better piece of work. Let me make clear that I am a fan of Menotti’s. I think
The Saint of Bleecker Street
is a seriously underappreciated masterwork, and his more well-known operas deserve every ounce of the fame they have achieved. Even some of his non-operatic works, such as his attractive piano and violin concertos, deserve more frequent hearings than they get. But
seems empty at its core, missing genuine musical inspiration and theatrical consistency.
The opera was written for children, but was clearly also meant to be appreciated by grownups. It is hard to see either cohort finding much here. The music is firmly in Menotti’s familiar melodic style, but there are no tunes that stay with the listener once they have gone by. In his best works this is definitely not the case. That quality that is elusive and indefinable, but is usually called “inspiration,” is what seems absent here. The music seems like so much note-spinning.
Dramatically, the work is truly a puzzle. The main idea seems to be to exalt the value of music to humanity. The Globolinks are alien monsters who can only be repelled by music, to which they seem allergic. A group of school children is threatened by these Globolinks, and uses music to make them vanish. A sub-plot, underlining the value of music, shows us the dean of the school, Dr. Stone, who has no use for music at all. Ultimately he is the one human swept away by the Globolinks. But Madame Euterpova, the school’s music teacher, continually speaks of the nobility and humanity to be found in music—but in fact she is a pompous, supercilious twit, a character with whom one cannot sympathize in any way. If she is the kind of human being that musical sensitivity creates, what is the point? I know that the work is meant to be fun, but for humor to be effective it has to have some tie to reality and to logic, even if in itself it is illogical. This just seems silly, rather than witty.
It is difficult to imagine a finer production than this one. Every singer fully inhabits his or her role, and sings wonderfully. Arlene Saunders and Edith Mathis are brilliant as the music teacher and the 14-year-old student, and Dr. Stone’s creator does the best he can with his unsympathetic part. The Globolinks are colorful and weird video creations, not too scary for the little ones, but effective aliens. Every aspect of the television production is well thought out and well photographed. There is no attempt to re-create the feeling of a staged performance—this is really an operatic film. The monaural broadcast sound is well balanced, and the English titles (the production is sung in German) are excellent. Matthias Kuntzsch conducts with flair and energy, balances are fine, and the orchestra plays very well. The notes, well translated into English, are helpful and stimulating. If you are a committed fan of Menotti’s music, it is probably worth obtaining this, because it is not likely to be bettered. I am not aware of any other video of
FANFARE: Henry Fogel
Picture format: NTSC 4:3 (Colour)
Sound format: Dolby Digital Mono
Region code: 0 (all)
Menu Languages: English, German, French, Spanish
Subtitle Languages: English, German, French, Spanish
Running time: 77 mins
Works on This Recording
Help, Help, the Globolinks! by Gian Carlo Menotti
Ursula Boese (Mezzo Soprano),
Raymond Wolansky (Baritone),
Kurt Marschner (Tenor),
William Workman (Baritone),
Arlene Saunders (Soprano),
Edith Mathis (Soprano),
Franz Grundheber (Baritone),
Noël Mangin (Bass)
Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra,
North German Radio Children's Chorus
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1971; USA
Date of Recording: 1969
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