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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This performance is very sophisicated, but the staging is beyond that word we use carelessly; beautiful., 7 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Britten: Death In Venice [John Graham-Hall, Andrew Shore, Tim Mead] [Blu-ray] [2014] (Blu-ray)
How can you pay homage to Britten (1913-1976) who is not only the greatest British composer, but is also one of the all time greats. Yet in life he suffered greatly; a homosexual and a pacifist who felt himself to be an outsider, so he hid behind a mask. It is only in his music, that he showed he was really a highly emotional Man. The Decca complete works of Britten CD box set show this to be so. However, we have been fortunate on bluray, for apart from this Death in Venice, we have the following opera's, Peter Grimes, the La Scala, Milan, with a British cast version, Gloriana, the stunning Rape of Lucretia, Turn of the screw, Billy Budd, and the War Requiem, which is timely, because of the 100 years anniversary of the beginning of the 1914-18 World War.

The opera's libretto written by Myfanwy Piper, is based upon Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. Premiere 16th June 1973, The Maltings, Snape, Suffolk. Created as a tribute to Peter Pears.

A brief synopsis.Gustav von Aschenbach, a lonely middle aged writer who is fascinated by the angelic beauty of the youth Tadzio, follows him through the streets of Venice. Yet he has always been interested in form, reason and restraint. However, his love for Tadzio begins to allow him to see that passion is closely related to beauty. He understands that the irony of his life has been that the worship of beauty and perfection of form, removed from feeling, is not possible. The more repressed passion is, the greater strength it has when it finally surfaces. However, his own death from Cholera intervenes.

"The Atmosphere of decay and decadence is uncannily evoked as are the sounds of Venice itself. Britten employs three strata of sound: piano accompanment for the recitatives, a Gamelan percussion for Tadzio and his friends, and the full orchestra for Venice and for the other characters." (Holden, A).

Deborah Warner's beautiful production of Britten's final masterpiece has been acclaimed as an " exquisitely achieved marriage of music, drama and design" (the Independent). John Graham-Hall who was Peter Grimes, in the La Scala production, the Guardian considers Hall's performance of Aschenbach " a remarkable and harrowingly believable performance." This is a traditional staged performance, circa early 1900's.

Act I scene 2. Funnel, seats, rails and baggage, give an impression of a ship. The passengers wear early 20th century clothes. In the Hotel, Palms set in various places, long very light brown curtains. The people mainly women, are dressed in light summer long dresses of the period. A few men and women in dark attire. Sky with wisps of clouds. Scene 5. The cobalt blue sky, gradually fading into a lighter shade of blue, where one can see a faint outline of a distant coast line. Children playing next to the outline of a beach hut. Off center a woman painting. Aschenbach is at the other end , sitting and watching boys play. I think at the beginning of Act 2, a haunting interlude floats across the theatre. It evokes a state of an uneasy state of mind, for disease is nearby. Even the sky and sea is grey. At Aschenbach's death, there is a stark orange orb; two boys including Tadzo play nearby him. He is sitting on a seat. As he dies Tadzo walks away into the sun as the sky grows dark. All the time a unforgetable theme is played by the orchestra.

A great deal of thought has gone into the scenery. A clever and subtle, well thoughtout production. I cannot praise the singers, Aschenbach Graham-Hall, Andrew Shore's 7 parts and Tim Mead as Apollo, plus the other parts enough. The orchestra of the English National opera is lovingly conducted by a long standing champion of Britten's music, Edward Gardner.

ALL REGIONS. LPCM. DTS HD Master audio. 16.9.10801p. 5.O DTS Master Audio.True surround sound. Subtitles: English, French, German, Korean.Production 2013. Booklet. Essay "East meets West."

REFERENCES: Guinn, J & Stone, L( eds ). The St James opera Encyclopedia. 1997. Visible Ink. Holden, A.(Ed). Penguin Opera Guide. 1995. Viking. Kildea, P. Benjamin Britten. A life in the 20th Century. 2013. Allen Lane.
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