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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hipplolyte & Aricie in the Fridge, 28 July 2014
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Hippolyte et Aricie runs for almost three hours, doesn’t have much by way of arias and its already meandering plot is frequently interrupted by dances. Basically a typical French Baroque opera. It all has the potential to be very dull – but not when it’s delivered in an inspired production such as Glyndebourne mounted in 2013. Some of the production concepts are admittedly a little unconventional, but it’s all superbly realised and there’s never a dull moment. One of these concepts is that the scenes set in the chaste goddess Diana’s realms should all be represented by “cool” places – hence the prologue is set in a giant fridge and other scenes are set in a coldstore and a mortuary. The scene set in Hell is set behind the fridge – populated by some very repellent-looking insects. The sets and costumes are all extremely effective, and often very witty.

Musically this is tremendous. All the singers are very good – but the standout performers are Sarah Connolly and Ed Lyon. The always-excellent Sarah Connolly gives a riveting performance as the Scorned Woman and Wicked Stepmother Phaedra. Ed Lyon sings brilliantly as Hippolyte, and looks entirely plausible as the object of Aricie’s love and Phaedra’s lust. Christiane Karg might be a bit two-dimensional as Aricie – but I think that’s more Rameau’s fault than hers.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment play superbly for William Christie – probably currently the world’s finest exponent of this repertoire. The chorus and dancers are also excellent – and another brilliant feature of the production is the degree to which the dances and the dancers are integrated into the whole.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable release. At the time of writing this is the only DVD/blu-ray available of this work, although another version, from Emanuelle Haim and Le Concert d’Astree, will be released in the Autumn of 2014.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A harmonious meeting of spectacle and scene, 18 July 2014
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie can often feel like a rather dry and academic work of Baroque opera but William Christie and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment present a delightful and lively account of the work at Glyndebourne that shows that the elegant rhythms and melodies of the work can actually be sensitive, expressive, witty, thoughtful and movingly tragic. The 2013 Glyndebourne production also recognises that entertainment also plays a vital role in the presentation of Baroque opera and it's hard to imagine anything quite so spectacular as Paul Brown's designs for this production directed by Jonathan Kent.

Quite why it seems to take place inside and behind a giant fridge may be hard to fathom and likely to come as a bit of a shock to the bewildered viewer. It's at least appropriate to characterise the icy detachment of the goddess Diana by confining her to the ice-box, while a fiery Cupid, whose influence is to cause such havoc to Diana's followers and worshippers, hatches out of an egg - but what on earth are the gods doing in a freezer in the first place and why is Hell depicted in the gunk at the back of the fridge? Well, in addition to being a classical text, Hippolyte et Aricie is very much a domestic drama. This doesn't always translate perfectly, Neptune's grand entrance not exactly the kind of spectacle it ought to be, taking place in the fish tank of Theseus and Phaedre's tastefully-decorated suburban semi-detached, but it's visually impressive in its own way.

The harmony of the universe has been disturbed by the dispute of the Gods and by the influence of Cupid, and as an opera, in its structure and in its musical arrangements as well as in its subject, Hippolyte et Aricie operates very much on this notion of harmony and the balancing of elements. Rameau - as academic a composer as he might be - makes the case not only structurally and harmonically, but with a sensibility for the beauty of imperfect humans aspiring to be gods. William Christie fully explores all the melodic and harmonic richness of what Rameau expresses so brilliantly in the musical arrangements, but also balances this with the requirements of the singing. Spectacle ("le merveilleux") and entertainment ("divertissement") are other factors that count towards this balance and harmony of all the elements, and that's all there even in the gorgeous but dramatically pointless ballet interludes and in the big and smaller details of the production design.

If the strangeness of the Baroque elements, the dances and the production design don't always fully sustain the interpretation, the singing performances are strong enough to make up for the lack of drive in the latter half of the work. Stéphane Degout is an excellent, richly-voiced Theseus, but it's Sarah Connolly who makes the biggest impression as a simply stunning Phaedre. In addition to being merely a formidable presence, Connolly's performance - alongside Christie's arrangements - also manage to elicit some sympathy for her character's predicament. As Hippolytus, Ed Lyons is perfect for the intentions of this production, his voice delicate but also strong enough to be capable of matching and standing up to Connolly/Phaedra. If he was weaker, this wouldn't work half as well. Christiane Karg however just didn't work for me as Aricie. It can be somewhat of a bland role, but Karg didn't really have anything to enliven it here.

On Blu-ray, this Hippolyte et Aricie looks and sounds every bit as spectacular as the production itself, with a bold colourful video transfer of the performance and crystal clear sound mixes in LPCM 2.0 and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1. Aside from the Cast Gallery, there's only one extra feature on the disc, a fifteen-minute making of that covers all aspects of the production, interviewing Christie and Kent, but takes a particular interest into Paul Brown's unusual costume and set designs. The disc is BD50, region-free, with subtitles in English, French, German and Korean.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absolute, All Time Great, Delight., 3 Jan. 2015
H. A. Weedon "Mouser" (North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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Here we have an outstandingly good rendering of Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie. In fact, Glyndebourne is to be congratulated on producing yet another all time great. It's so very morishly watchable and, although I haven't owned this recording for very long, I've already watched it three times and jumped around with joy each time in recognition of its inherent inspirational qualities.

We have here a supreme example of how to 'modernise' a work without damaging its raison d'etre. Happily, Rameau's works lend themselves to this kind of adaptation and, I have to say, beginning the performance by staging the prologue in and in front of an open fridge works wonderfully well. I like the way the chorus and dancers came out of the fridge and how the chaste Goddess Diana sang from one of its frozen compartments in contrast to the warmer place from which Cupid sang after he had emerged from an egg. The female dancers, understandably, initially wear fur coats and the male dancers eventually emerge from among the hanging sausages. I was impressed by the two large pieces of broccoli that were brought out of the fridge towards the end of the prologue. They reminded me so much of the tasty broccoli I grow in my garden and I looked at my own fridge and wondered what would happen when I opened its door next time. Although it's impossible to know precisely how those of bygone ages thought inside themselves, I really do believe that Rameau had a sense of humour and would have loved all this.

Christiane Karg is outstanding in the role of Aricia who loves Hippolytus, equally well played by Ed Lyon. In Act 1 one of the functions of Diana as the Arch Huntress is realistically displayed with the arrival of slain stags resplendent with antlers. It reminded me of the vast deer park, next to which I grew up and have vivid memories of the deer being culled and of how we were given venison to eat. The stags were hung up by their hind legs just as in this presentation, except that one was hung up by its head, which annoyed me. Apart from that, it could not have been better portrayed. Aricia is 'blooded' (with deer blood) and Diana promises to protect both her and Hippolytus. But Phaedra, Queen of Athens, Hippolytus' step-mother doesn't like this because she is in love him herself, which means that she's set on causing an awful lot of trouble. By now the fridge has disappeared, which is just as well because it's not large enough to contain all the venison.

In Act 2 Hippolytus' father, Theseus, well sung and played by Stephane Degout, visits Hades, entry to which is barred by the Fury Tisiphone, who gets furious with him and blocks his entry into the nether world. However, he does manage to meet up with a garishly dressed Pluto, brilliantly played by Francois Lis, who also plays Jupiter and Neptune who don't appear very often. Theseus nearly gets trapped in Hades, but he appeals to Neptune who overrules Pluto who isn't as high up in the pantheon as he is, and so he manages to get out safe and sound.

In Act 3 things begin to go disastrously wrong. Believing his father Theseus to be dead in Hades, Hippolytus consoles his stepmother Phaedra who, mistaking his concern for love, confesses her passion for him, much to his alarm and distress. Here the fridge has become a house with four apartments, through which the players move, using some stairs to access the upper storey. It's all very effective, fitting in with the unexpected return of Theseus from Hades when he accuses Hippolytus of raping Phaedra, whom he was only trying to comfort because she had threatened to commit suicide when he emphatically rejected her. After this everything really does go badly wrong with seemingly dire consequences. But somehow or other we now get this wonderful lot of colourfully clad hunting folk all singing their heads off plus lots of dancing. Some of the hunters are dressed like foxes with fox-eared head dresses. It's great stuff with rousing hunting music and singing. It was like as if the foxes are pretending to be humans and are singing out and mocking the real humans with an 'up yours mate' attitude. Some dancers perform dressed up as bees or that type of insect. It's so enjoyable, intelligently choreographed and an absolute delight to watch. I loved every minute of it. The 'dance of the sailors' in, out and around the house is an inspiration. Maybe the next time the vixen visits my garden she will dance for me.

In Act 4, although Hippolytus and Aricia escape to Diana's realm, Hippolytus is swallowed up by a monster and it all begins to look like a very unhappy ending, but it all comes right in Act 5, the final act. Although Hippolytus and Aricie are reunited, Theseua is condemned to never seeing his son again because he unjustly blamed him. Cupid is vanquished and the security of married love triumphs under the protection of Diana. (Katherine Watson is a perfect Diana. She gets her just right)

Although the humans are all costumed in more or less modern fashion, the gods, other supernatural beings and insects etc. are all colourfully clad in fascinating fashion, and the costume designer deserves high praise. All the dancers and other extras do themselves proud. and Ashley Page deserves the highest praise for his choreography. All told, this is another 'William Christie does it again' production. When watching it all it has the effect of causing the watcher to truly feel part of what is going on. It brings inspiring music and superb acting into the very corners of everyday life. Every time I open my fridge now I see Diana standing there, in all her glory, right up there in the right hand corner and I can't wait for the time when the broccoli will dance again in my garden.

This is simply an all time great production that places Glyndebourne on the pinnacle of world operatic productions. and it's a tribute to the genius of Rameau that his works are timeless, lending themselves to inspiring adaptations in every day and age. Well done director Jonathan Kent, designer Paul Brown and to everyone else involved in this all time great production. I love it to bits and will never tire of watching it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The cool chaste icy world of Diana is threatened when Cupid ..., 19 Jan. 2015
Derek Vernon-morris (Greater Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
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This Baroque opera by Rameau is ingeniously set in a huge Fridge-Freezer. The cool chaste icy world of Diana is threatened when Cupid emerges from an egg, and is granted precedence for one day a year by his father Zeus. Mercury the Messenger ingeniously floats on a barometer gauge, and the underworld of Pluto is represented by colourful fly and bug costumes in the dust and beneath the fridge motor. I don't happen to have an accumulation of dust and flies behind my fridge, but it is a clever idea.
Broccoli trees, an orange slice sun and other edibles are carried by the cast to form a landscape. In the sacrificial scene to Diana models of Stag carcasses are hung in a walk in freezer and simulated blood is smeared first over the walls, and then the cast indulge in smearing it all over themselves Aricie and unsuspecting Hippolyte. The Goddess Diana has the eloping lovers under her protection, from the wicked Queen Mother, the wife of Theseus, the son of Neptune who foolishly uses up all his three wishes and they all end up in the Morgue - the final set.
Throughout all of this amazing contemporary interpretation, directed by Jonathan Kent, William Christie conducts The Age Of Enlightenment Orchestra with his usual flare. Ed Lyon in his Cricket whites, and Christiane Karg in her white Chemise head a notable cast including Sarah Connolly and Stephane Degout. Amazing.
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