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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pythonesque Masterpiece. Brilliant! Great Stuff!, 13 July 2013
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This review is from: Meyerbeer: Robert Le Diable [Bryan Hymel, Patrizia Ciofi, John Relyea] [Opus Arte: OABD7121D] [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
This is a brilliantly staged, sung and acted Pythonesque production of this once very popular opera by Meyerbeer. Although the Victorians may well have liked it for very different reasons, my contention is that it benefits from being given a Monty Python slant, which is greatly appreciated by those of us who have become weary of the Ivanhoe, fair ladies and tournaments scenario. It also cleverly satirises the heaven-hell concept showing how ridiculous it is to 'sheep and goats' people using purely arbitrary considerations. Best of all, it parodies, in the shape of top-hatted Bertram, the clever-dick, self-opinionated know-all, who, much to everyone's enjoyment, eventually gets his comeuppance.

In this production the scenario is brought forward from the Eleventh Century into the high Middle Ages during the time when it was fashionable for ladies to wear high, pointed hats of various colours, which all works excellently when they are mingling and singing with the Pythonesque knights. The zombie nuns rising from their graves in the convent burial ground parodies in delightful fashion the farcical nature of Medieval beliefs concerning an afterlife.

Marina Poplavskaya is brilliant as Alice, the one sane person among a hotchpotch of various kinds of nitwits, the most likeable of whom is the weak-willed peasant Raimbaut, betrothed to Alice, but open to mind-change when worked on by Bertram. You need to visualise this work as if this Alice is sorting everyone out in a wonderland of daft characters incapable of sorting themselves out without the catalyst provided by her good self.

There's so much in this opera to enjoy, especially in this cleverly original production of it. Operas are there to be developed and improved. It's like continuing to love the favourite teddy of our childhood after we've grown up. He presents himself to us differently, but we still love him because - well, he's special. Operas are like teddies; they are best when they are not either seen or presented or understood in the same way. Truly great operas are open to a variety of interpretations and that is why Robert le Diable is a truly great opera - because it lends itself to being interpreted in a variety of ways, not least to being presented in a delightfully Pythonesque fashion. I loved every minute of it and thoroughly recommend it.
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Location: North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,199