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(Jan 11, 2011)
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This exceptional production features Gounod s largely forgotten opera Mireille. Performed at the Opéra National de Paris, it was a great triumph for conductor Marc Minkowski and attracted more than a million viewers when broadcast on French television. In 1859, the young Provençal poet Fredéric Mistral wrote Miréio, a vast epic love poem. Gounod read Mireille shortly after publication and went to Saint- Rémy de Provence to meet Mistral. Gounod was charmed by the originality of the work, the story being much less contrived than many of those on the operatic stage at the time. The opera has had a difficult career and was revised and altered several times. In 1939, Guy Ferrant and Henri Busser, disciples of Gounod, restored the work to its original five acts. There is no competition on either DVD or Blu-Ray.
Top customer reviews
This is a simple story set in provincial France. Simple it may be, but the dramatic structure is perfect, with the story unfolding from its idyllic first act, and then the drama unfolds as it progresses to its fatal and fanciful ending (which, if one can stretch far enough, has some similarities to Faust, although it is a bit of a stretch).
Musically, it would be hard to better the two leads. Charles Castronovo as the male romantic lead sings and acts very well He also looks the part and performs very comfortably. There would not be many tenors who could present all facets of the role significantly better, But the accolades go to Imva Mula who carries off a very demanding role (a dream role for a dramatic soprano with sufficient stamina) brilliantly, with beautiful singing and acting, and she, too, has looks perfect for the role.
The two leads are unknown to me, but although you might be able to point to a few singers who, individually, may perform slightly better, it would be difficult to find a pair who could fuse the singing and acting in such a believable way, carrying the feel of provincial France, as does every aspect of the production. Not quite Villazon and Netrebko, but I doubt that pair could convey the Gaellic feel so naturally.
The supporting cast are uniformly excellent in their roles, and with excellent singing and playing from the chorus and orchestra of the Paris Opera under (I have no French and the booklet is slightly confusing), but the conductor appears to be Marc Minkowski.
Settings, perfectly natural, are simple to the eye, but not quite as simple to construct. For example, in act one, there is nothing to tell the eye it wasn't filmed in a wheat field.
Lately, I have been discovering some wonderful performances of excellent operas previously unknown to me, but this one shines as a beautifully crafted gem. A simple story, perfectly handled by the composer, and presented in a performance that, in total, would be hard to better. The sound is excellent in PCM stereo or 5.1 DTS (not DTS-HD master audio) but does not suffer significantly from not being in the superior format. Video direction of the superbly lit sets left me completely satisfied (16:9 naturally).
In summary, a rare delight, not to be missed. Performance is just over 2 1/2 hours.
The version on this video is the 5 act original version of the opera in which Mireille dies at the end and does not include the Act I 'valse-ariette'.The lack of this famous aria is my biggest disappointment in the video, since I consider it to be the equal in every respect of the Jewel Song in Faust.
The scenery and sets capture the composer vision of Provence. No fancy directorial excess here which makes it all the more enjoyable.
The soprano role is a demanding one and here is sung by the Albanian Soprano Inva Mula who is a regular at La Scala. She does an excellent job in the role and successfully meets the demands of Gounod' Score.
I find it sad that this opera is not better know and nor performed more frequently. The music is every bit as lovely as "Faust" and "Romeo et Juliette". It may be that the story, based on Frédéric Mistral's poem "Mireio", is not as well knows as either Faust or Rome and Juliet, and thus has suffered by comparison with better known stories by Heine and Shakespeare.
But this performance is a faithful and well-sung production of Gounod's opera and should be bought by every lover of the composer and of opera. You will not be disappointed.
There has been much discussion in reviews about modern and traditional staging, but do people understand what they are writing about. You need to have studied art, or have a brief knowledge of it. That is why film makers make excellent opera stage directors. They understand the connection between colour, scenery and background, as well as movement. All those involved in stage production would know the following,primary colours yellow, blue and Red. Secondary colours, as well as complimentary colours red(warm) and green(cool),orange(warm) and blue(cool), yellow,violet.A cool colour will project a warm colour forward. Make the colour stand out. When you view Mireille you will view a greeny yellow tipped corn field. At the opening of Act I, you will notice peasant girls in light dresses, and others in light brown dresses,some with light yellow hats ,others with scarfs of yellow, orange and blue all with the same tones. Against the corn the singers stand out. In Act two, you see girls and boys dancing , with flags across the sky line in the fading sunset with the same tonal value. That is done deliberately to break up the huge space of sky. In the corner you notice a cart. It stands out against the background. The older Taven has a dark brown dress with light brown apron on. Her scarf, is Violet,the same tonal value as the rest of her clothes. The open cart and flowers she sits in makes you focus on her and Mireille. The House breaks up the back ground and a hill with violet sky. This makes the tables and singer stand out. In the desert scene, notice the light Khaki yellow sky, with Mireille in a pale blue dress of the same tonal value as the backdrop. Notice the sun. It is not placed in the centre, but slightly to the side. Your horizonal lines are never placed in the middle of the picture, nor with objects like the sun. In the last act, the crowd is gathered around the stairs. Your eye is meant to focus on that area. All this you should know from taking photo's. For what Blu rays and DVD's are is glorified pictures. Areas in front of the singer are often broken up. The same as scenery. It is to leave no spaces. Every costume is designed with these views in mind, the same as the scenery.Every movement is planned by the stage director, as in a film. Many film makers draw every scene on paper, so the camera man knows where to place his camera. You have to think in terms of perspective, colour, horizon and vertical lines.
Marc Minkowski the conductor of the Orchestra and chorus of the national opera of Paris tempi are swift, as befitting an authentic instrument conductor. Inva Mula is a light soprano and sings beautifully. Charles Castronova is Vincent has a typical French voice for the part.The cast is fine and mainly French the notes say. The scenery is the true star of the cast. I can throughly recommend this opera. Obviously it is no Romeo and Juliet.( Royal opera house,DVD,Traditional, Conductor Charles Mackerras, with Alagna and Vaduva-also Faust,Royal opera house, Cond Pappano, with Alagna, Gheorghiu, Terfel, Keenlyside and Koch, set in the Impressionistic period of the 1880's)
Most recent customer reviews
The music is fine but not great.Read more
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