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Tchaikovsky: Iolanta / Stravinsky: Perséphone [Blu-ray]

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Unanimously acclaimed, Peter Sellars' new production of these two masterpieces was one of the great highlights of Gerard Mortier's season at the Teatro Real. The orchestra and cast, including Ekaterina Scherbachenko and Paul Groves, are lifted to rare heights of poetic expression under the daring and insightful baton of Teodor Currentzis.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Paul Groves, Dominique Blanc, Ekaterina Scherbachenko, Willard White, Teodor Currentzis
  • Directors: Peter Sellars
  • Writers: Piotr Tchaikovsky, Igor Stravinsky
  • Producers: Teatro Real Madrid
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Classical, Widescreen, Color, DTS Surround Sound
  • Language: Russian, French
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Teatro Real
  • DVD Release Date: October 30, 2012
  • Run Time: 187 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B008H2IIWU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,455 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
If you want to see how potent minimalistic staging, costumes and acting can be in opera then Peter Sellars' twin productions of Iolanta and Perséphone, commissioned by Teatro Real's Artistic Director, Gerard Mortier, are the epitome of this style. From the moment the spotlight focuses on Ekaterina Scherbachenko and her attendants, and the first words of Tchaikovsky's Iolanta are sung, this production is captivating. The singing is superb throughout, as it has to be as there is nothing else happening on stage to hide any imperfection behind. Set on an otherwise empty stage the simple `door' frames, with their improbably balanced obsidian stones, are used to indicate different rooms and structures within the imagined spaces of the story. This works exceptionally well with the lighting effects used giving both depth and definition to the artists' movements on stage.

Sellars uses the same set for Stravinsky's Perséphone to great effect with changing backdrops and lighting giving the simple frame structures a completely different feel. Whilst I felt Stravinsky's piece was less compelling musically it was beautifully performed and had the additional interest of the Cambodian dancers from Amrita Performing Arts who shadowed the story in their unique form of ballet.
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Format: Blu-ray
I did not expect to be so deeply moved by this lesser known Tchaikovsky opera. Iolanta may not be performed much these days but it has striking attributes: a powerful, melancholy mood, gripping characters and a concentrated story that consistently holds one's interest. And if it is not quite as consistently inspired melodically as Eugene Onegin or Queen of Spades, Tchaikovsky can still be most persuasive here, successfully tugging at the emotional heart meter. Iolanta was Tchaikovsky's last opera, premiering in 1892 on a double bill with the Nutcracker (quite the long program!), and it is not hard to see how the joie de vivre of the ballet would win over more audience than the intimate, somber opera. Yet when performed as convincingly as it is here, Iolanta casts a strong poetic spell that leaves a powerful, lasting impression. At 1 hour and 45 minutes, it is quite substantial, no mere trifle length-wise. It more than holds its own on the opera stage.

The one-act work is centered around the blind Iolanta, daughter of King Rene in 15th century Provence, who doesn't know she differs from anyone else. The story is strong and dark, and I won't spoil the ending, but it is terribly moving. Tchaikovsky rises to the occasion with much music that is eloquent. It's hard to know where to start with the successes of this 2012 Madrid production. The singing is universally fine, with a largely youthful Russian cast offering clear and pure vocalism, with especially strong enunciation. Iolanta is eloquently portrayed by a silver-voiced Ekaterina Scherbachenko, evoking a radiant presence. Veteran Willard White not only looks the part of the Moorish physician Ibn Hakia, but also sings powerfully and evocatively, although not as clearly as the Russian cast.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
If you are not really familiar with these 2 operas, go first to the extras where Peter Sellars explains his understanding and realization of the two operas. Both operas use the same minimalistic staging and customs. For Iolanta it works beautifully. In fact it is possible that the premier failure of Iolanta was due to staging it as a grand opera, when in fact it is an intimate and personal opera. Sellars gives to this opera various meanings and he knows how to accomplished it. You may agree or disagree with Sellars, but his interpretation is very well executed. The orchestra and singers perform wonderful. The music is an intimate Tchaikovsky, different from his grandiose operas or ballets, a real treat. I was very impressed by Willard White playing Dr. Ibn-Hakia. In summary, a very enjoyable and well executed Iolanta.
Persophone is a little bit more difficult. The libretto by Andre Gide is quite dense and needs full attention. I am sure something is missed in the translation to English for those who don't understand French. I was not convinced by the minimalistic approach. I felt something was missing, in particular because it is difficult to visualize the transition between the abduction, Hell and then back to Earth. The Cambodian dancers are a nice addition although at some points it gets a little bit confusing. The general theme is too big for an intimate production in my opinion. Sellars linked both operas as the search for light, which is interesting and meaningful. The pamphlet enclosed in the Blu-Ray disc lacks more details on the operas themselves.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Not too many people have heard of Stephan Mallarmés concept of a total work: a piece that unites all of the arts in one complete performance. Peter Sellars has just achieved it with his production of these two operas. He has done the seemingly impossible: strip "Iolanta" of its fairy tale "Russianness" and turn it into an ageless, serene, mystical work of art. The same must be said of "Persephone": poetry by Andre Gide, flawlessly spoken by Dominique Blanc, impeccably sung by Paul Groves and the chorus of the Teatro Real de Madrid, with a minimalist setting that invokes both painterly abstraction and Zen architecture, and danced by Cambodian Royal Dancers. What a joy to have an literate opera producer like him. The vocals? As good or better than you can get elsewhere (wait for the Met's production of Iolanta with Ms. Nebretko). This is opera as sacred choral music. One for the ages..
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