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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The higher you climb the wider the view, 6 April 2012
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This review is from: Bach: Matthaus Passion (Matthaus Passion: A Ballet By John Neumeier) [DVD] [2010] [NTSC] (DVD)
Another review of this substantial work strikes a note of heavy scorn. It made me wonder: 'great score ... great artists, a great ballet company ... great dancers', even Neumeier himself is admitted to be pretty good at other times - so how come this ballet is such a disaster? In a kind of fractious reaction to the tone of the review I went ahead and bought the 3 DVDs. I am therefore deeply grateful to the reviewer for so arousing my curiosity.

True, this work is not as immediately accessible to the indolent mind as, say, Disney's Snow White, but then, neither is Hamlet. To really feast on Hamlet you must become at least passingly familiar with Elizabethan English. In other words, you must make a bit of effort. The more you put in, the more you get out; the higher you climb, the better the view.

The music is of course sublime. The story, largely from the gospel of St Matthew, is compelling in the Picander (Henrici) libretto. In Bach's Passion, the music and the sung story are inseparable. Neumeier marries the dancing to music and story in a complex whole. I don't think you need to be a Christian to appreciate this beautiful and profoundly moving work; you just need to have the attitude that the best art may need a little initial effort on your part.

In my case I needed to study the libretto (free on the net in German and English) to help my meagre German. Any ballet gains when you know the story. For this one it is an advantage know the detail of the story. There are no subtitles, but that may not be a bad thing; the motivation to study the libretto in advance is greater, and subtitles can be distracting. So yes, perhaps you need to work a little beforehand. The higher you climb, the better the view. Oh, and you need not to have had your attention span permanently damaged by too many hours in front of popular TV. (I know, I too can be scornful.)

As to picture quality: I have certainly seen better quality DVDs, but as when watching stuff filmed with antediluvian technology, if the stuff is good one soon forgets that it is not blu-ray.

So: Worth the money? Worth some effort? Yes and yes!

I almost gave it 5 stars, but well, it could have been blu-ray.

Oh, and God preserve us from artists who work to please the audience!
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