Notes and Editorial Reviews
From the Glyndebourne Festival Opera 1973
Stage Direction by RAYMOND LEPPARD
Sound Format: PCM Stereo
Picture Format: 4:3
Region Code: 0 worldwide
Menu Languages: German, French, English, Spanish
Subtitle Languages: German, French, English, Spanish, Italian
Running Time: 176 min
* Based on the Greek legend of Ulysses and his return to Ithaca after years at the Trojans wars, the opera "Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria" is one of the earliest opera of its kind ever written.
* Monteverdi's music is of transcendental beauty. He took what had previously been rather monotonous, one-dimensional music drama and enriched it with emotion, excitement and
expression, captured perfectly in this production.
* This seminal 1973 production is directed by Raymond Leppard at the National Theatre. The terrific cast and crew, particularly the outstanding Janet Baker with her "richly expressive voice and dramatic talents, perfectly suited to singing opera", stage an impassioned production that is accentuated by the gorgeous visual design. An important addition to any collection.
IL RITORNO D’ULISSE IN PATRIA Ulisse - Benjamin Luxon
Penelope - Janet Baker
Minerva - Anne Howells
Nettuno - Robert Lloyd
Giove - Brian Burrows
Ericlea - Virginia Popova
Telemaco - Ian Caley
L’humana fragilta - Annabel Hunt
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Raymond Leppard, conductor
Peter Hall, stage director
John Bury, stage designer
Robert Bryan and Hedley Versey, lighting designers
Recorded at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, 1973
Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish
Running time: 148 min
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)
R E V I E W: 3732050.az_MONTEVERDI_Il_Ulisse_Patria.html
MONTEVERDI Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria • Raymond Leppard, cond; Janet Baker (Penelope); Benjamin Luxon (Ulisse); Anne Howells (Minerva); Robert Lloyd (Neptune); Brian Burrows (Jove); Virginia Popova (Ericlea); Ian Caley (Telemaco); Annabel Hunt (Human Frailty); Glyndebourne Ch; London PO • ARTHAUS 102308, mono (DVD: 148:00) Live: Glyndebourne 1973
This Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria has been in and out of the catalog for some time now. It features one of the very rare productions of the opera for its time, and its earliest known commercial filming. The musical edition has numerous cuts, but maintains greater continuity than at least some more recent versions, such as Glen Wilson’s, that remove large sections for specious reasons. It is orchestrally the most sumptuous on disc, complete with anachronistic positive organ. But in all fairness to Leppard, it bears remembering that there is no Urtext to most music from this period. There is every likelihood that the orchestration used when the opera made its rounds after its debut varied according to whatever was available. And whatever claims can be made for more spartan versions since, this one certainly works as a theatrical vehicle, and is none the worse for that. Leppard, too, is better at keeping the energy going and finding proper tempos and phrasing than at least a few of authenticity’s more recent champions. There is a natural flow to the work that never grinds to a halt during its monologues, but always follows the logic of the drama.
Peter Hall directed the production: like Walter Felsenstein, he is an accomplished master of his art who seriously considers all the challenges of whatever work he faces, and meets them. So instead of just placing Penelope on stage when we first see her, Hall isolates and minimizes her, making clear her vulnerability by putting her at the far end of a backdrop and floor that are telescoped for perspective, and then further framed as though behind an iris lens, like some hundred-year-old silent film. Throughout that lengthy monologue her arms are hidden beneath a long robe, unlike all the others that enter and leave: symbolically, she cannot affect the reality around her, unlike the suitors who insist she wed one of them. Much more of the same speaks to both Hall’s visual imagination, and desire to reinforce the values of the original work. Praise, too, for the mix of grid-like, vaguely constructivist backdrops, and Italian Renaissance costuming, which continues the theme announced in the Prolog of Human Frailty attacked on all sides by forces beyond its control.
Unlike Felsensten, however, Hall did not have control of the filming. So where Felsenstein re-blocked several of the operas he filmed, or even rethought his complete approach—as in the case of Offenbach’s Barbe-bleue—Hall’s Il ritorno is simply recorded using relatively static cameras placed at various points in front of the stage. It is fine as such, but his brilliance in one medium is less obvious due to the television crew who manage the other with more primitive means, and without his guiding hand.
Janet Baker is in excellent form as Penelope. As a stylist she was ahead of her time, and her voice is heard here at its best. She’s not afraid of using it with apparent abandon when her character in turn abandons hope, crying at the end of her act 1 monologue for Ulysses, or when demanding the last of the suitors honor her pledge of the unbent bow. Much the same can be said of Benjamin Luxon, whose rock-solid lower register in particular deserves praise, though he displays a tendency to pressure his tone and increase its hardness in passages of emotional intensity. But an identical intelligence in realizing expressive ends is his, and as an actor he is Baker’s equal.
The rest of the singing and acting is very good. Standouts are Anne Howells as a vocally regal Minerva (even if she is too rich of voice when disguised as a light-hearted shepherd), Ian Caley’s sweet-toned Telemachus, Robert Lloyd’s full fathoms’ deep bass, and Annabel Hunt’s affecting Human Frailty.
Though I’ve criticized the camerawork, it still accomplishes what it sets out to do in a professional fashion. The analog recording is good, with no obvious color changes over time due to aging, or afterglow artifacts from moving light. The sound is slightly constricted, but still effective, and the audience all but silent until after the final chords. The picture format is 4:3, with PCM Stereo for sound. Subtitles are available in English, German, Italian, French, and Spanish. Despite its limitations, this is definitely an Il ritorno to treasure for its sensitive conducting, fine singing and acting, and excellent direction.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal Read less
Works on This Recording
Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria by Claudio Monteverdi
Patricia Greig (Soprano),
Benjamin Luxon (Baritone),
Ian Caley (Tenor),
Dame Janet Baker (Mezzo Soprano),
Anne Howells (Mezzo Soprano),
Brian Burrows (Tenor),
Annabel Hunt (Alto)
London Philharmonic Orchestra,
Glyndebourne Festival Chorus
Written: 1640; Venice, Italy
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