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Glass: Kepler

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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(Apr 12, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

GLASS:KEPLER

Review

I sense, on the American opera scene, a ho-hum attitude to Glass, based on the assumption that he always does the same thing. Most important companies have by now done one or maybe two (though, L.A., none) of his operas. The older works are favored over the new. Nothing is planned anywhere in the U.S. at the moment. Critics don t go out of their way to keep up. Europe pays more attention. Linz is a town of 200,000, and its performances of Kepler (which runs through early January) serve as a tourist attraction and sell out. Linz knows what we do not that Glass, following Kepler's lead, understands that there really may be a music of the spheres. Kepler is a wise, major opera. -- Mark Swed --Los Angeles Times 11-19-2009

And there is no sense that Mr. Glass has a problem with this or thinks that we in the 21st century have some better handle on the truth of the matter. There s something refreshing about the composer s willingness to depict a belief in God as meaningful and not a belief that s potentially hip like Taoism or Buddhism, but good, old-fashioned Lutheranism. Something that does not get said about Mr. Glass enough, but that may in the end be one of the real distinctions between him and other composers popular with a contemporary, liberal audience, is that he always gives religious belief its due, without condescension. It is one of the many pleasures of his surprisingly moving new opera, which will hopefully return to New York soon, perhaps alongside Galileo. -Zachary Woolfe --New York Observer 11-24-2010

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Dennis Russell Davies, Martin Achrainer - Kepler, Cassandra McConnell - Soprano 1, Karen Robertson - Soprano 2, Katerina Hebelkova - Mezzo
  • Directors: Peter Missotten (production), Felix Breisach (video)
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, NTSC
  • Language: German, Latin
  • Subtitles: English, German
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: ORANGE MOUNTAIN
  • DVD Release Date: April 12, 2011
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004JX8UB0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,404 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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By Doug Urquhart on July 9, 2011
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This opera is about the life of the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who spent some time as a teacher in Linz. It was commissioned by the Landestheater Linz, where it was performed for this DVD. I think they got their money's worth.

Kepler was a deeply religious man, and spent his life attempting to discover the laws governing the order behind the movements of the planets. He ventured down some blind alleys along the way, and this opera explores them all.

In the very first scene, we see the body of Johannes Kepler, surrounded by the six planets known at his time, orbiting in perfect circles, bathed in that reddish light used by astronomers to avoid upsetting night vision. (For the non-astronomers amongst you, that would be the five visible planets - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn - plus Earth). The planets are portrayed by six singers, wearing white clothing. The rest of the action is, presumably, a flashback.

As the action progresses, we see Kepler trying to explain the six-fold symmetry of the solar system in terms of the shapes of geometrical solids, plus the combination of "numbers, quantities and circular motion" as sung by the chorus. This reflects his early work, where he couldn't abandon the idea that planets should move in a perfect circle.

The chorus, dressed in black and looking ever upward, represents Religion (I think) looking towards the heavens for divine inspiration, while Kepler looks at the skies for knowledge. In answer to their refusal to listen to his findings ("when we close our eyes, we see more"), Kepler retorts "the Bible is not a textbook on Optics".

At one point, Kepler brings in the Sun (on a chain as it happens) to symbolize the transition from geocentric to a heliocentric view of the solar system.
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WHAT CAN I SAY? GLASS DOES IT AGAIN. IS THERE ANYONE IN THE OPERATIC WORLD WHO HAS EVER WRITTEN ABOUT THE ECSTATIC EXPERIENCE OF SCIENCE? WELL, THIS IS IT. IT REMINDS ME OF BERLIOZ (BENVENUTO CELLINI) OR HINDEMITH (MATHIS DER MAHLER), BOTH OF WHICH ARE ABOUT THE EXTATIC DIMENSION OF ART. AND YET, NONE OF HIS WORKS HAS EVER GRACED THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE, AND THIS IS THE ONE EXTANT VIDEO OF A PRODUCTION OF HIS OPERAS. WITHOUT HIM, MAYBE THERE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A GOLIJOV AND CERTAINLY NO ADAMS (HIS CLOSEST PEER IN MUSICAL AND THEMATIC TERMS). AS USUAL, EXPECT NOTHING BEYOND BARE BONES FROM A KULTUR DVD. BUT WHAT MUSIC, WHAT SINGING, WHAT PRODUCTION, WHAT CONDUCTOR! I AM ASHAMED THIS PREMIERE HAD TO OCCUR IN GERMANY. IF YOU ARE A LONG-TERM GLASS FAN, LIKE I AM, YOU SIMPLY MUST ADD THIS DVD TO YOUR COLLECTION. WILL WE EVER SEE AN AKHNATON ON DVD?
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I have seen and enjoyed several Glass operas. This one is well done: good acting, excellent music (admittedly Glass isn't to every one's taste: when I play a CD of Glass's Einstein on the Beach my wife's son says "it sounds like a squirrel being tortured"), imaginative staging.
My only (non relevant) regret is that I can't get Glass's Akhnaten on DVD; I tremendously enjoyed seeing it at Chicago Opera Theater 10 years ago.
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The libretto of this opera is a brilliant poetic patchwork with a long excerpt from Genesis, the book of the Old Testament of course, and several poems from Gryphius, a poet who describes the 30 Years’ War in Germany. The rest of the libretto uses various sources and alternates Latin and German, and Latin is not gratuitous since it was connected to the Catholic Church at the time and the Lutherans rejected the use of this language. The opening piece and the closing piece are the same epitaph Kepler officially wrote himself for his own death. It is in Latin.

We have to understand this physicist lived in a pivotal period in Europe. He was born in 1571 and died in 1630, very exactly twelve years after the beginning of the 30 Years’ War in 1618 that was to end in 1648. On the other hand Gryphius was born in 1616 and died in 1664 and he lived his whole childhood and youth in the middle of this war. This pivotal period was centered in Germany around this long war between the Catholics and the Protestants. We have to understand that such religious wars were long and brutal in France, just the same in Germany and at the same time they were the main stake of the English Civil War and Puritan revolution, after having been the main stake under Henry VIII, his son Edward II, his daughter Mary I and his second daughter Elizabeth I. For at least three quarters of a century or even one full century the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants went on without any visible reconciliation possible.

It is though in this very period that science really started sprouting genuine buds and set its first concepts on the table.
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By Issan on February 9, 2016
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