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Janacek: The Makropulos Case [DVD] [2012] [NTSC]


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Product details

  • Format: Classical, Colour, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: Czech
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, German, Korean, Chinese
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: C Major
  • DVD Release Date: 26 Mar. 2012
  • Run Time: 135 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006ZR7LC2
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 160,441 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Product Description

One of the highlights from the 2011 Salzburg Festival. With Angela Denoke in the lead role, this emotionally powerful opera was given superior treatment at the hands of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Esa-Pekka Salonen. The staging by Christoph Marthaler received fantastic reviews from all over the world. Janáeks absorbing masterpiece The Makropulos Case reflects all the dominant musical styles of the early 20th century, from Bohemian tunefulness to big Straussian phrases, Berg-like jaggedness and primeval rhythms.

Review

Cast, conductor and direction team won unanimous applause --Financial Times

The cast is led by Angela Denoke's Emilia Marty...vocally strong as well as having a striking stage presence: mysterious in the first and vulnerable in the last...hers is a performance of distinction...Raymond Very's Albert Gregor is accurately sung and well characterized. --International Record Review, May 2012

Jurgita Adamonyte as the starry-eyed Krista, delivers abundant ravishing tone, and Angela Denoke is an utterly credible Marty: commanding elegantly seductive and exuding a poignantly believable world weariness. **** --BBC Music Magazine, June 2012

Angela Denoke, for whom the production was staged, is striking as Emilia Marty, the 300-year-old opera singer who has grown tired of life, and there is a strong supporting cast. It is a pleasure to see Ryland Davies enjoying himself so much as the dotty old Hauk-Sendorf. Esa-Pekka Salonen produces emotional magic from the pit. --Opera Now, July/August 2012

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Sillitoe on 26 Feb. 2013
Format: DVD
Now far be it for me to criticise a production before a single not has been played, but I don't see the point of having two women sat in a sound-proof room talking, yes they do discuss why humanities time on earth should be extended, well for some at least, which is one of the sub plots of the story, but they are talking in the present, and not in the past, and therefore it doesn't explain how Emilia Marty came to be so old!
The original story places in Prague in 1922, but for this production, some of the costumes lead one to think that the action happens in the 1960's, with Emilia Marty's clothing being reminiscent of Mary Quant. The modern costumes and set however do work, so much so that the stage director won may plaudits for this production.
Whilst Angela Denoke steps into the role of Emilia Marty very nicely, her tone is not as pure as Elisabeth Söderström in Mackerras' famous Decca CD recording. She is however a very fine actress in a stage role that demands a strong `singing actress', her role should dominate proceedings throughout, and she certainly holds your attention! I found Raymond Vary a little week and dry-sounding in the role of Albert Gregor, but this is more than made up by Peter Hoare who sang the role of Vitek with great sensitivity and feeling. Johan Reuter and Aleð Briscein were also on fine form as Jaroslav Prus and Janek respectfully, as is Jurgita Adamonytë in the role of Krista, with some fine singing from the rest of the cast too. Esa-Pekka Salonen controls the proceedings well, and his Wiener Philharmoniker shine.
So once passed the four and a half minutes of the `Silent Prologue' I really enjoyed this production, and it is a performance which will give me much enjoyment in the years to come, highly recommended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Entartete Musik on 18 May 2012
Format: DVD
Arrogant and mysterious though she may be, Emilia Marty is highly self-aware throughout The Makropulos Case. After all, it is she who holds the key to her history and the eponymous thing, case or affair that troubles other members of the cast. Angela Denoke is a superb protagonist, embodying the strangeness and allure of Janá'ek's anti-heroine. But this is not an opera without its problems and Christoph Marthaler's production from last year's Salzburg Festival (now available on DVD) exacerbates those underlying issues.

In the wrong hands, Makropulos can be a discursive, dry old thing. It's part and parcel of Janá'ek's style, of course. If the (post-)Wagnerian school worked with ideas of development, unity and line, Janá'ek bucked the trend with a kaleidoscope of jostling fragments. Yet, as Nikolaus Lehnhoff and Christopher Alden have ably demonstrated, it is Marty's dispassion rather than the world around her which is the nub of her problems. Their respective productions, at Glyndebourne (and elsewhere) and ENO, populate Marty's milieu with ardent admirers. But in Marthaler's hands even Hauk-Šendorf's campy turn has precious local colour.

Rather than viewing Marty from the outside in, this production is seen from her perspective. She may act as a emotional and energetic drain on her surroundings, yet the idea doesn't quite translate onto stage. That said, Marthaler is far from specious in his choices. The placement of a municipally-lit care home, in which an ageing woman smokes herself to death - having verbally questioned longevity and quality of life before the overture starts - is a neat parallel to the principal narrative.
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Try not to read the synopsis first, watch the opera. It's quite a story. If you've never seen it because people tell you it's an oddity or you've been told it's 'difficult', take no notice and enjoy what I think is probably Janacek's most glorious operatic score, orchestrally. His music isn't fragmented, it is logical and works as a commentary; lots of themes and dramatic monologues link and weave around the action and Act III of Makropulos contains some of his most heartfelt music. Throughout the opera Salonen doesn't allow any of the rhythmical or dramatic music to drag, yet gives lots of space for the romantic sections, sometimes too hurried in other performances.

Janacek is Janacek; don't think about Wagner, Strauss or Berg, just enjoy his ability to present you with explosions of romanticism and great atmospheric drama in his own way. The Vienna Philharmonic are the stars of this performance as much as the excellent cast, varying reviews of which are worth reading elsewhere here.

The production is unusual; its intention was partly to restore some of the comedy and maybe absurdity of Karel Capek's original play. I really do advise watching it without knowing the story; the text is self explanatory and it'll become clearer with repeated viewings. It's not pure science fiction, but has intrigue and a fantastical edge, and there's a lot of Kafka/Escher type references in the action. The static setting doesn't detract from the story.

I found Angela Denoke magnificent as Emilia Marty; the way she almost recedes into the sixteen-year-old character from where it all began is well presented; she sings the final scene out into the theatre from the edge of the stage, not rushed, sharing all the heart-breaking sentiment with us almost like a concert performance. I love it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Give Me Alchemy or Give Me Death: A Convincing Case 1 Aug. 2012
By Choirbehr - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Vec Makropulos has a verbose libretto with no real set pieces, except for the final scene and aria. However, one characteristic of Janaek 's vocal music is his focus on replicating Czech speech patterns, so the music is always interesting, and always commenting on the action. The entire opera is only 90 minutes long; and it really repays repeated viewings/hearings. I got a lot more out of it the second time around.

The entire opera takes place on a single set. On stage right is a glass-enclosed break room. The area on stage left looks like an airport waiting area. The main playing area is a courtroom, as the plot turns around a court case (although a courtroom is not specified in the libretto.) The whole scene conveys a sense of waiting for something to happen (or not happen.)

Emilia Marty is the opera diva at the center of the story. In the course of the opera, we learn that Emilia is 337 years old and is in fact rather bored with living so long--constantly reinventing herself and finding a new life and lover (but always as a singer of unnatural beauty).

This production definitely falls into the Regieoper category. There is a lot of sub-textual action on the sidelines. The action doesn't literally mirror the plot, but director Christoph Marthaler has created repetitive action that comments abstractly on the many lives of Emilia Marty. Among other elements, on stage right, during Acts 2 and 3, two bits occur (and recur) involving an orderly, an elderly woman, and some flowers. The overall effect of the symbolic movement was probably a lot more effective in the theater, since most of this action takes place simultaneously with the opera. In the opera house, the viewer would be able to take in all the action at once, or at least decide for him/herself where to focus.

Emilia sings in her final aria that the relative brevity of life is what gives human existence its joys and meaning. Never-ending life seems to blur and ultimately render meaningless the differences between good and evil, happiness and sadness, and even life and death. In the end, the diva who has the power to live forever decides it's not worth it, (During this final scene, on stage right, the young woman collapses. When the doctor enters, he ignores the young woman, and examines the elderly woman; then picks her up and carries her out.)

Musically, this is a solid and convincing production. The Vienna Philharmonic provide their usual lush support with Janaek's sweeping, colorful score under the attentive direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen.

This opera succeeds or fails on the lead soprano. Angela Denoke provides us with a resounding success. She has strong and lovely voice, one that also serves the music of Richard Strauss well. She portrays Emilia's dignity, elegance, sensuality, and world-weariness beautifully.

Danish baritone Johan Reuter is another standout voice, warm and lyrical. Other noteworthy performances are by Jochen Schmeckenbacker, Ryland Davies and Raymond Very. Overall, this is a strong cast. Most of the cast are not native Czech speakers, but to my non-Czech ears, they sounded convincing.

I highly recommend this DVD. It is a stirring performance of a fascinating opera.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Opera 30 Nov. 2012
By Richard Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This opera concerns a 314 year old diva Emilia Marty, played by Angela Denoke,who is embroiled in a complicated lawsuit and who is hunting for a document that will renew her lease on life.Marty,a true femme fatale,possesses a nearly magical ability to bewitch men. This power she uses to confound lawyers,make her courtroom adversary fall in love with her, and,inadvertantly,drive his son to commit suicide. All of this Marty greets with an indifference mixed with disgust because she has come to regard existence itself as a drab and pointless burden......Angela Denoke dominates the opera. She conveys an allure that is at once fascinating and frightening.She is also able to convey a vulnerability as her character is literally worn down by the weight of time...The Makropulos Affair is an "actor's opera" in that the opera takes precedence over the music.The score combines a kind of atonality with lyricism and adds greatly to the strange and disturbing power of the entire opera.the set includes an old fashioned courtroom and a modern '60's style waiting room, the costumes suggest the 1920's.All of this is meant to convery a disjointed conception of time...the video itself is sharp and clear with English subtitles.I highly recommend it, even for those who are not drawn to 'modern' opera.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Bracing new production of this cryptic masterpiece 23 July 2012
By Daniel R. Coombs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Leos Janacek wrote what many consider his operatic masterpiece, The Makropoulos Case (The Marhropoulos Affair/Vec Makropoulos) in the mid 1920's, premiering in 1926. Based on a comedy by Czech playwright Karel Capek, this is certainly one of Janacek's best scores, but is also a fairly dense and symbolic story that unfolds gradually. This is a very enjoyable production, recorded live at the 2011 Salzburg Festival with a modernistic set design and somewhat surreal feel in this staging by Christopher Marthaler.

Musically, this is a very interesting work, containing some "recognizable" Janacek (brass flourishes and chattering winds that will remind many of bits and pieces of Taras Bulba or the Sinfonietta). However, the score also flirts with styles that echo everything from late Richard Strauss to early Schoenberg to Debussy. Both musically and dramatically I have always liked The Makropoulos Case but in the small, but impressive Janacek operatic output, I am partial to From the House of the Dead with its fairly grim, but direct libretto.

The plot to Makropoulos is - all at once - simple and very heady. Essentially, a mysterious opera singer and a bit of femme fatale, Emilia Marty, shows up while in opera productions to offer information that can unravel clues to a century old lawsuit between two families involving secret documents, spurned love and unproven lineages. The real catch - which does not even begin to become clear until the late second act - is that Marty is probably (later - admittedly) the daughter of the physician to the Emperor Rudolph II who had commissioned the personal physician to concoct a "fountain of youth" potion which the Emperor tested on the doctor's daughter, Elina Makropoulos. After it is revealed that Emilia Marty has, indeed, been alive for over 300 years and has assumed various identities, each of which is a woman with the initials "EM", the proof of this finally emerges. Along the way, Emilia encounters many men who are attracted to her; who have an inkling of her mysterious nature and - in one case - is actually a former lover from many years ago.

The story is considered a comedy by author Capek and by Janacek but the humor is broad, satirical and subtle; falling mainly along the lines of poking fun at the folly of those who seek immortality, the arrogance of the upper class who think they can, literally, buy such a thing and the frailty of the human nature; especially into old age. If Makropoulos is not performed more often it is not for the music, which is accessible and ethereal; just "modern" enough while being very audience friendly. It is, perhaps, for the libretto, which requires full audience concentration and more than a little acumen for irony. In fact, many would find it a stretch that the story is a "comedy". While there are stock characters and some very creative unsung doddering laborers who are treated a bit shabbily at the hands of the upper crust in satiric fashion; ultimately Emilia's centuries old roulade ends when her secret is discovered. She leaves several forelorn admirers, a son and a starry eyed admirer of opera all somewhat shocked and disappointed and Marty - in the libretto - drops dead (In Marthaler's staging, she walks off stage symbolically never to be seen again). The "comedy" is the broadest of satires and the tone is actually quite bittersweet.
The reason to acquire this very engaging new DVD is the modernistic staging, coupled with the wonderful and insightful performance by the forces of the Vienna Philharmonic under the always amazing Esa-Pekka Salonen; one of my favorite conductors. All performances are quite good but the real - and central - star of the show is Angela Denoke as Emilia, who exudes the necessary uneasy blend of sexiness and intrigue.

This is a very fine disc to own to have a wonderful performance of this very esoteric and somewhat rare opera by the Czech master but also to have an unusually riveting staging of a work that does not get staged often at all. Following at home is worth your while and I recommend this production strongly.
It DOES have SUBTITLES! 11 Aug. 2013
By Orson Welles - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Contrary to what one reviewer says, this blu-ray does have English subtitles. (The overture to this production happens to be on youtube, so you can preview it there.) For some reason, Amazon has prized this blu-ray at $5.75. That is an incredible deal. I ordered it.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Interesting Opera, So-So Staging 29 Mar. 2013
By New Yorker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
The notion of a woman over three hundred years old trying to retrieve the lost
recipe for her elixir of youth is fascinating, even if the music seldom takes
us to lyrical heights. But this is a disappointing production. There's nothing
especially wrong with it (though the lengthy pantomime sequences add nothing
but running time), but no spark, either. The old Decca audio set, with Elisabeth
Soderstrom under Charles Mackerras, gets much more out of the music.
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