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England, My England: The Story of Henry Purcell [DVD] [2011]


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Product details

  • Actors: Simon Callow, Michael Ball, Corin Redgrave
  • Directors: Tony Palmer
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Italian, Spanish, German, English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: NVC Arts
  • DVD Release Date: 3 July 2007
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000SKKCN2
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,601 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Michael Ball stars as Henry Purcell, in this history of the composer's life and works, written by John Osborne and Charles Wood. Simon Callow also features as King Charles.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By K. Harvey on 2 Nov. 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Purcell, who was court composer to King Charles the Second (The Merry Monarch) and later to William III and Queen Mary II, is probably one of England's greatest composers and this wonderful production was very well received when it was on TV to mark his 300 year anniversary.

This is not just a beautifully played biography of Purcell, which Michael Ball portrays as a lovable, talented man, but also a moving and realistic depiction of the considerably harsher lives of those in London at that time.

The drama is balanced in three parts to involve the viewer in the music, the life of Purcell in the late 1600's and how to relate to him in the present day. Thus the drama of Purcell's life is done in flashback from Simon Callow (who also plays King Charles II) as an actor in 1960's London struggling to present Purcell to a twentieth century audience. This helps us to understand better what was happening to Purcell when we slipped into the flashbacks of the past. King Charles II had restored the monarchy to England after the horrors of the English Civil War and the Puritan Protectorate under Cromwell. He required a talented Court Composer and young Purcell who had spent all his life in the service of music with his father and uncle, both professionals, to train him was just the right man.

The period dramas set at the courts of King Charles and his successors are done in full lavish costume drama style. The selection of music is injected at those moments which are appropriate for the unfolding drama, both in the great events of British history and the personal triumphs and disasters of Purcell's life. The musical performances, as I remember them, were all sublime and uplifting.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By M. Joyce TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Oct. 2010
Format: DVD
I'm not sure what to make of this. I watched it on TV when it was first shown in the mid 1990s and remember enjoying it and it certainly gave me a lot of pleasure this time around, even if I did not find Tony Palmer's concept of exploring Purcell's life and times through the eyes of a group of actors in the mid 1960s (or so it says on the DVD sleeve; hairstyles and events would suggest a decade later) especially effective, however literate and amusing the script by Charles Wood and John Osborne may be. The acting is, of course, very fine; how could it be otherwise with a cast featuring Simon Callow, Corin Redgrave, Rebecca Front, John Shrapnel and the late, great Robert Stephens? Michael Ball is, moreover, a revelation as Purcell, confounding all my (unfair) expectations. The chief glory of the film is, inevitably and quite rightly, Purcell's sublime music, performed superbly by the English Baroque Soloists under John Eliot Gardiner and featuring such expert soloists as Susan Graham, Lynne Dawson, Nancy Argenta and David Thomas. The musical excerpts underpin the whole film with point and wit and are in themselves ample justification for what is by any standards an intriguing DVD.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mondoro TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 Jun. 2008
Format: DVD
'England, My England' tells the story of our of our great composers and uses rich colours and settings to recreate the court of Charles II and his royal patron, Mary. It employs many of our leading actors, with Simon Callow as the mainstay, and singers; some of whom, like Susan Graham, are now at the summit of their profession. The choice of Purcell's music to illustrate episodes in his life is well-judged and always apt, and there are many discoveries to be made: the quality of music in 'King Arthur', especially. I particularly liked the final touch of the Britten 'Young Person's Guide' finale, based on Purcell- a tribute to another of our great composers.

Above all, Callow's film is an intelligent historical and social commentary on Purcell's world, and our apparently very different, world. The theme cutting across both is that of violence, lurking under the surface, and erupting at times into sectarianism and revolt: the film makes a direct link between the No Popery sectarianism that swept through England and the stridency of Ian Paisley and the Orange Order.

Callow comments also on the concept of English identity - part of Europe, but not part of it, unsure of its place, a 'hanger on'. My only slight reservation is the occasional tendency of Callow, playing the modern actor, to rant, rather than leaving us, his audience, to reach our own judgements.

Purcell the composer comes across as a beacon of English identity, writing music of genius that is neither French nor Italian (the competing factions at the time) but uniquely English. Yet even today only a handful of his works out of an enormous output, written in the same lifespan as Mozart's, are really well-known. This film goes some way towards rectifying this situation.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Hans Kaspar Hort on 7 Mar. 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
'England, my England' has proved itself over the decades to be an exemplary way to deal with history, art and artist. The combination of talent across the board -actors, screenwriter, director.. Etc.- shows what actual inspiration in the right combination can achieve. While many film of that period by now have been reduced to a certain retro-charm, this one feels as fresh and contemporary as can be.
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