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Andrï¿1/2 Ernest Modeste Grï¿1/2try - Pierre Le Grand

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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(May 17, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Maxim Mironov, Elena Voznessenskaya, and Nikolai Galin star in this Gretry opera staged to celebrate the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, with Sergey Stadler conducting the Helikon Opera.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Vladimir Bolotin
  • Directors: Dmitry Bertrman, Nadezda Feodoridi
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: German (PCM Stereo), English (PCM Stereo), French (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Russian
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Arthaus
  • DVD Release Date: May 17, 2005
  • Run Time: 94 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007X9T6Q
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #170,578 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Andrï¿1/2 Ernest Modeste Grï¿1/2try - Pierre Le Grand" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Here's a rarity. In the summer of 2003, Russia's Helicon Opera Company revived "Pierre le Grand", a little-known 1790 opéra comique by the Walloon composer André-Ernest Modest Grétry, to celebrate the tercentenary of the founding of Saint Petersburg by the eponymous hero. Cameras were there to capture the event and this is the result. The plot is loosely based on actual history: Peter the Great disguises himself as a commoner so he can work as a carpenter in the shipyard which is building his new Russian fleet. Here he falls in love with a Livonian peasant girl, Catherine, offers to marry her, then disappears. Catherine is heartbroken and threatens suicide, but Peter returns to reveal his true identity and fulfill his vow to her, and the opera ends in general rejoicing. First impressions of the performance are mixed. It takes place in a tiny theatre and the sets were clearly produced on a budget, just a painted backdrop of a shipyard with a gantry above it where the singers clamber occasionally, plus some largish move-around props. But I expect the original 18th century staging was something like this, making it easy enough to accept, and the costumes are somewhat finer. The spoken dialogue is given in French and Russian (with the odd English and German phrase too), a confusing but linguistically interesting mishmash. I'm glad they stuck close to the original libretto, even though it's no great masterpiece. But what really confuses matters, apart from the Babel of languages, is the hyperactive direction. The producer seems obsessed with having relentlessly busy "stage business" going on all the time, whether it makes sense or not. I didn't understand the point of most of it.Read more ›
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I concur with the previous reviewers. The stage direction is a mess, way too busy and most of the time, at least for me, unintelligible. Shortly into the first act you'll realize you have no idea what just happened, or what is happening, or where it is exactly they are supposed to be, the stage of the tiny theater suddenly filled with characters and you're not sure who is what and why. It doesn't help that the English subtitles, which start off promising, soon start trailing off and translating sporadically. The characters sing in French but the dialogue is in Russian, mostly directed at the audience and at the conductor - they often narrate the action or give stage directions but the subtitles either miss some of it or translate in the present tense things that have already happened or about to take place, adding to the confusion. The jokes are either ignored by the subtitles or lost in translation. I recommend that before viewing you go to the "extras" included on the DVD and read the synopsis - even though you eventually figure out the who's and what's this will be of great help. The costumes look like a denim factory exploded. The comedy is a bit overplayed here, and the "serious" moments (as in Catherine's suicidal aria, in which she actually stabs herself numerous times but comes out just fine) are given the exaggerated comedic treatment of caricature, perhaps this was meant as a parody. I must be a total bore but I simply didn't get the jokes or found them not very amusing. Catherine quotes Traviata, Lucia and Hoffmann during the cadenza of her first aria, and later during spoken dialogue quotes Traviata again and I've never understood why it's funny when they make Alfred do that kind of stuff in Fledermaus or why it would be here.Read more ›
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This production was put on in honor of the 300th aniversary of St. Petersberg. It tells the story of Peter the Great posing as a carpenter shipbuilder and falling in love with a commoner familiar from Zar und Zimmerman and L'Etoile du Nord. Gretry's version is a wisp of a thing whose book was once much longer than the music. This performance preserves all the music but cuts the dialogue to a minimum. No real loss. The production itself is something of a mess. It reminds me of a high school attempt although the singing is certainly above that. The shallow stage is covered with ladders suggesting carpentry and with ships. The singing is in French and the dialogue (which includes a lot of stage directions) in Russian for the most part. At times it is repeated first in French and then in Russian. There is a lot of spurious stage business to complicate what is truly a simple plot. Most of it is incomprehensible. But who cares. The music is wonderful - filled with melody and spirit. And the singers are up to their tasks and enter into the fray with abandon. We'll certainly never get another chance to see or even hear this little work. Let's be thankful and enjoy.
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... or read Russian subtitles, you won't have the slightest idea what's happening in this quaint operetta with some modestly appealing music. Much of the story-line is conveyed in spoken dialogue, and I suspect that the cuts in the dialogue have been drastic enough to make the drama nearly inscrutable. This product page suggests that English subtitles are available, but they are not, not at least on the Russian edition, though I've been told that they are offered on another edition. So beware!

AEM Grétry (1741-1813) was an extremely popular composer of stage music in France in his time, the time of Marie Antoinette. He is indelibly associated with the ill-fated queen, with Versailles and Fontainebleu. I make no claim to being a historian of musical theater, but it seems plain as the flapping ears on my head that Gretry figured in the line of development of "light opera" and "musical comedy" as we know it on Broadway. This production of 'Peter the Great' will surely remind you of recent productions of Offenbach and Humperdinck, though it's not close to as effectively goofy.

The production is ... well, let's be generous and call it quirky rather than funky, and low-budget rather than amateurish. The oddest thing about it is the conductor, but I shan't spoil the effect by describing him. On the whole, this is a DVD for those with a special interest in the evolution of musical comedy.

There is, amazingly, another Grétry opera on DVD:
Gretry: L'Amant Jaloux
That production is better in every way -- a better composition, a funnier libretto, more artful singing and acting, a first-rate HIPP orchestra, a much more theatrical staging. It's a definite five-star offering that I might find time to review some day soon.
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