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Sound, Singing and Dancing at their Very Best. A Great Production.,
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This review is from: Thais [DVD]  [NTSC] (DVD)
This superbly presented performance of Thais adapts well for the small screen. Better still, it presents the inspiring music of Jules Massenet to the best possible effect in this medium. I sat enthralled, watching and listening throughout. The choreography is also of the highest standard, blending in splendidly with the rest of the performance.
This work could be said to be an opera about the pain caused by the clash of extremes: the sensuality of the world of the courtesan with the hot house piety of the religious life in a monastery. The opera is actually based on the real life experiences of Taide, an actress and courtesan living in Alexandria in Egypt in the Fourth Century AD. Famous for her beauty and notorious for her immorality, she eventually retired into the monastery where she later died and was eventually revered as a saint.
Massenet managed brilliantly to define Thais as an overwhelmingly likeable character always in control of her own destiny. 'Today I will be a courtesan; tomorrow I will be a nun.' The character of Athanael, sung in this presentation by bass-baritone Michele Pertusi, is portrayed as the one who doesn't know his own mind. To begin with, he can't get Thais into the convent fast enough, then regrets doing so and wants her out again so as he can wed her. He thinks he's the one who has rescued Thais in the first place and can't understand it when she has no desire to leave the nunnery just to satisfy his desire. She prefers to die singing happily and sitting in a chair.
This opera is all about how a beautiful and intelligent woman, Thais, enjoys the very best of two opposing worlds, whilst a sanctimonious, confusedly minded, egotistical male misfit, in the shape of Athanael, manages to steer himself into getting the worst of everything. In addition to these two lead roles the rest of the cast all acquitted themselves with great aplomb with orchestration, singing and dancing interacting as near perfectly with each other as it's realistically possible to get. The props are especially well designed for viewing on the small screen. Since there's a real danger that lavish scenery may detract from the singing, I feel it is always better to err towards minimalism for the home viewer. In this production it all dovetailed together perfectly. Best of all, there's excellent sound quality.
The true greatness of Massenet shines through in this production. He has created a masterpiece in which the viewer-listener is enveloped in a feast of magical sound couched in the vibrant movement of pulsating life in which womanhood is the controlling force personified in the shape of an erstwhile courtesan.. This is easily one of the very best productions of Thais. Buy and enjoy.