This is a total triumph – one of the most brilliant opera DVDs I’ve ever watched. The story is updated from the court of Elizabeth I to the “court” of Margaret Thatcher (sort of). The plot is otherwise unchanged and the whole thing works superbly well.
It’s obviously a star vehicle for Edita Gruberova, who is on superb form. All her normal mannerisms are present, of course, but I found her performance completely riveting – especially the final “meltdown” scene, which is exhilarating. The singing, acting and direction all come together to produce an unforgettable climax to a very dramatic opera.
The other singers were all new to me, but all are superb, especially Jeanne Piland and Albert Schagidullin as the Nottinghams. The whole is extremely well directed, with the series of dramatic confrontations very well realized. I don’t normally like extraneous business being added to operas, but here the addition of the silent character of James I is a stroke of genius. His final smirk as he becomes king is one of the many unforgettable images from the production. The orchestra is conducted with great spirit by Friedrich Haider (Gruberova’s husband) – bringing out all the drama in the score.
The only slight negative is the set – basically a large wood-panelled room with some ugly leather furniture. It works well in the “court” scenes – basically an antechamber in the Parliament – but less well as the Nottinghams’ house or Roberto’s dungeon. However I found that I was so riveted by the singing/acting that I wasn’t really looking at the sets much.
For anyone who is not got to be put off by the updating, I cannot recommend this highly enough.