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Handel : Theodora [DVD] [2001] [NTSC]

4.4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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  • Handel : Theodora [DVD] [2001] [NTSC]
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Product details

  • Actors: William Christie, Dawn Upshaw, David Daniels, Richard Croft, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
  • Directors: Peter Sellars
  • Format: Colour, Dolby, Digital Sound, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: German, English, French
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: CLASSICAL
  • DVD Release Date: 5 July 2004
  • Run Time: 207 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00022EFJS
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,578 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

A new production of Handel's tragic opera moving the story from the ancient world to the present day. David Daniels takes the role of Didymus the Roman Soldier whose Christian conscience leads him to risk his life for the noble Theodora. A highly acclaimed production first broadcast on Channel 4.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Until fairly recently, most people would have heard the phrase 'Handel oratorio' and thought, "Ah, Messiah". But there is much more to Handel than Messiah, not least his 40 odd operas most of which have had a decent recording by now, or his many oratorios which are now receiving the same treatment. Even fewer people would have considered staging a Handel oratorio, but at Glyndebourne in 1996 Peter Sellars' production was a sell-out, and the adulation for the team of soloists unsparing. Hence we have this video recording, directed by Sellars himself, and capturing for posterity the dynamism and emotional intensity of this Handelian classic.

The story of Theodora, a Christian martyr of the Roman period (during the reign of Emperor Diocletian), is not a well-known one, but Handel took Thomas Morell's libretto and produced a masterpiece - one ravishing number after another.

The Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment under William Christie produces a first rate performance, even in Act 3 which in less assured hands can drag rather, without any significant action to be portrayed. Tempi and conventions are apposite, and the audience sit in stunned silence bemused by the unfolding scenes of Christian virtue and pagan obduracy.

Didymus (David Daniels) the Roman soldier loves Theodora (Dawn Upshaw), a Christian, but is under orders from the President of Antioch (Valens - bass) to persecute all those who will not honour the emperor's birthday. The Roman centurion Septimius (Richard Croft), whose job it is to ensure christian compliance with the pagan festival, is also friend to Didymus and later confronts a conflict of interest when he has to arrest his friend and have him and Theodora executed as Christians.
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Definitive Handel from Christie. The performances could hardly be bettered in this intensely moving piece. The notorious Sellars "semaphore" is in action again, but it doesn't intrude, and the updating of the setting is both telling and poignant. Daniels is at his superb best, but the real star is Lorraine Hunt (before she was Lieberson.) The Ferrier/Baker quality of heartbreak is evident in every note, every gesture. Watch it and weep.
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I always think that it was a shame that the cast of this production were not corralled into the studio to produce a CD of this extraordinary collaboration. As it is, we have this DVD of one of the greatest performances of Handel opera or oratorio. The five American leads, Christie, Daniels, Lieberson, Shaw and Croft invest such emotion into their performances that they transcend the usual oratorio setting of Theodora to something more operatic (and one feels they would have accomplished this with a bare stage as well as with Sellars' more abstract staging). Lieberson's performance of Irene is definitive, painfully intense, almost excoriating. I have never heard another performance, baroque or otherwise, like it. Daniels' Didymus is outstanding; it's a rich performance of vocal agility and nuance, which more than established him as the greatest Handelian counter-tenor. His artistry is sublime. Richard Croft, is without a doubt the most adept Handelian tenor, and he catches the intensity from his fellow performers and delivers a beautiful performance as Septimius, especially his Descent kind pity. Dawn Upshaw is very good, but compared to her three fellow cast members, she lacks a bit of their intensity; she seems just a bit reserved even for such a character as Theodora--it's a minor quibble about a stunning production. I always thought Theodora was Handel's minor key masterpiece, but this production makes me think that it might be his greatest vocal work.
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By A Customer on 3 Jan. 2001
Format: VHS Tape
This really is a superb example of Glyndbourne innovation at its highest. Fantastic singing (the highlight for me being Lorraine Hunt's "As with Rosy Steps"...magical!!!) from a cast who can (shock!horror!) act as well. Superb direction too - for me, the "risky" treatment really works. I recommend it to blow away those "Handel cobwebs", along with the equally fantastic ENO production of Xerxes.
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The idea of turning Handel's 3 part oratorio into an opera is brilliant. This production is now seen to have movement and emotion. There is here wonderful singing by the chorus with an excellent Dawn Upshaw as Theodora and a fine supporting cast. I especially praise the truly wonderful Lorraine Hunt. Once again I marvel at the standard of music from William Christie and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
However the appalling camera work wreaks the whole production. 4 second camera movements and an overuse of close ups. A pointless set -
and why oh why does this director feel an overture cannot stand alone. So we are distracted with a chorus "doing things". All totally unnecessary.
Clearly Sellars thinks he is more important than Handel.
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Yet another musically excellent rendering of an opera let down by a silly modern director (Peter Sellars in this case). The almost intolerable thing about this director's production is not so much the "modern" setting - with huge glass bottles dominating the stage and with modern assault troops in their garish orange kit (thought it is strange to see a character singing about his sword while looking at his assault rifle). No, the worst thing is the stylized gesturing that the characters repeatedly engage in. Especially when an expression of early Christian devotion is in question, the effect is frankly laughable. Given that the pluses and the minuses stand at fifty-fifty between the musical and dramatic aspects of this production, you might expect a ranking of three stars. The fourth is due to the quite outstanding contribution of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.
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