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Rachmaninov: The Miserly Knight [DVD] [2005] [2010]

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Sergei Leiferkus, Richard Berkeley-Steele, Maxim Mikhalkov, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski
  • Format: Anamorphic, Classical, Closed-captioned, Colour, Dolby, DVD-Video, PAL, Widescreen
  • Language: Russian
  • Subtitles: German, English, French, Italian, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • DVD Release Date: 30 May 2005
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009K7J5K
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,045 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

Vladimir Jurowski conducts Rachmaninov's dark setting
of Alexander Pushkin's ‘little tragedy’ with an outstanding performance from Sergei Leiferkus in the role written for
the great Russian bass Fyodor Chaliapin.
Rachmaninov's dramatically brooding score - beautifully recorded in an atmospheric surround sound - portrays the miser consumed by the power of his glinting gold, as it pushes him to his ultimate collapse.

Press Reviews

"Visually this DVD of The Miserly Knight is sumptuous, musically it is superlative. Composed in 1906 for Chaliapin, this production has a magnificent successor in Sergei Leiferkus, who dominates the stage. Apart from his magnificent voice and compelling acting, he has tremendous presence." (The Penguin Guide)
"...an inspired piece of programming...Sergei Leiferkus was utterly compelling in the title role...he delivered an appropriately mean performance..." (Opera)
"...the magnificent Sergei Leiferkus...takes this rather thrilling symphonic fantasy into the realms of true opera." (The Independent)
"This production was recorded in high definition video, and hence should be available on high definition DVD in a year or so. If you have not seen high definition television you are in for a jaw-dropping experience. It is clearer than motion picture film! For opera productions like this it means much more expensive sets and costumes, more realistic acting and makeup, because of the extremely fine detail which is now visible.
"
(Musicweb International)
Awards Penguin Guide Rosette
Cast
Sergei Leiferkus (The Baron)
Richard Berkeley-Steele
(Albert)
Maxim Mikhailov
(The Servant)
Viacheslav Voynarovskiy
(The Money-lender)
Albert Schagidullin
(The Duke)
Matilda Leyser
(Aerialist)
London Philharmonic Orchestra; Vladimir Jurowski

Stage Director: Annabel Arden
Catalogue Number: OA0919D
Date of Performance: 2004
Running Time: 95 minutes
Sound: DTS Surround; LPCM Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic
Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, ES, IT
Label: Opus Arte

Customer Reviews

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The Miserly Knight was composed by Rachmaninov in 1904 when he was only 30. The original tale was written by Pushkin as one of an intended series of poems depicting the 7 deadly sins. In the event only 4 were completed and none of them were intended for performance. For this rarely-performed work Rachmaninov set the story almost word for word from the original and thus dispensed with a librettist. It is told in three scenes with 5 principals and no chorus.

To quote the sleeve notes: `The narrative is so bald, it can be compressed into two sentences. The Baron keeps his son Albert in penury, compelling him to rely on moneylenders for finance and finally to throw himself on the mercy of the local feudal duke. When the duke confronts the Baron with his miserly greed, the Baron slanders Albert, is challenged to a duel, and in a state of shock, collapses and dies'.

There is a central 20 minute monologue where the Baron broods on his accumulated wealth during which nothing dramatic happens. This situation seems unpromising but omits the extraordinarily effective and vital role of Rachmaninov's orchestration. Those who are familiar with his `Isle of the Dead' symphonic work will be aware of his considerable abilities in painting such atmospheric scenes by way of orchestral colouring. This grim tale therefore fits the composer's psyche and musical imagination and skills perfectly and the result is a compressed tale of gripping dramatic effect.

The Glyndebourne setting of this tale is fittingly dark and forbidding, lacking in any civilising softness. Jurowski is able to conjure up powerfully dark textures and sounds from the fine London Philharmonic which is on top form.
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The details claim that this is over 90 minutes, but the opera itself lasts barely 60 minutes. The rest of the time is devoted to interviews and a short promo for the original companion piece at Glyndebourne - Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. Nevertheless, if you can get it at a good price (not list price which is too much for such short measure), this DVD is well worth having. The work itself is very dark and there are no big tunes. It is not at all what one would expect from the Rachmaninov of the Second Piano Concerto or the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. This is relatively unusual Rachmaninov and is clearly influenced by Wagner and more akin to the Rachmaninov of The Isle of the Dead, The Bells and similar more sombre works. It is however, a powerful piece, musically dramatic and clearly orchestrated by a master. This production seems as near ideal as one could hope for. The cast is uniformly excellent but Sergei Leiferkus in the title role is truly outstanding - a personal tour de force. The addition of a non-singing female member to Rachmaninov's original cast of 5 men is an interesting and illuminating idea in this Glyndebourne production. She brings an extra dimension to the drama and both clarifies and extends the ideas contained within it. As Vladimir Jurowski himself says in the interviews, this is not an opera. It is, however, an interesting and compelling music drama that adds a new dimension to our understanding of Rachmaninov. The interviews are interesting and very illuminating, highlighting the sheer quality of the cast and production team here and the depth of their ideas for this performance. Even the short vignettes from Gianni Schicchi are enjoyable, especially as the great aria O Mio Babbino Caro is given essentially complete. Worth exploring - but not at full price.
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Rachmaninov's brilliant work !
The cast is excellent !( Leiferkus at his best !)
The music takes you from the start , beautiful !
Hope more people would love this opera !
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rachmaninoff's Claustrophobic Masterpiece Beautifully Done 27 Aug. 2005
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
This production of Rachmaninoff's opera, 'The Miserly Knight,' was part of a double-bill on the theme of avarice at Glyndebourne in July 2004. The other opera on the bill was Puccini's 'Gianni Schicchi,' already reviewed glowingly by me here at Amazon. Stage director Annabel Arden gets credit for making this exceedingly difficult-to-stage opera come alive. She did so at least partly by adding a character not in the score, a figure, played by aerialist Matilda Leyser, who personifies Greed and who also acts out, in a way, the kind of commentary on the action provided by Rachmaninoff's orchestral score. Leyser is stunningly creepy, bringing a kind of subtext to the action that might not otherwise have come across. Arden also gives less than noble instincts to the character of the Duke who in Pushkin's text is rather more of a cipher. In any event, the staging is perfect for this claustrophobic meditation on the power of greed, one of Pushkin's so-called 'Little Tragedies.'

As to the musical aspects of this productions, full marks all round. Vladimir Jurowski, an exciting conductor, is in complete control of the complicated musical textures. Rachmaninoff provided a very dense, almost a-melodic orchestral and vocal score that is psychologically astute; Glyndebourne's house orchestra, the London Philharmonic, has the full measure of it, as do the singers. The middle scene, a 24-minute monolog by the Knight in his cellar with his collection of chests of gold pieces, is masterfully done by baritone Sergei Leiferkus. Also outstanding is huge-voiced basso Albert Schagidullin as the Duke. Only slightly less effective is tenor Richard Berkeley-Steel as the Knight's son, Albert. The only other characters in the all-male vocal cast -- Maxim Mikhailov as the Servant and Vyacheslav Voynarovskiy as the Moneylender -- are excellent.

Extras include a spoken synopsis, illustrated by stills from the production; interestingly, it does not include the slight (but telling) changes in the plot that actually occur in this production (and I won't be giving those plot twists away here), and an extended set of interviews with Arden, Jurowski and Leiferkus concerning their understanding of the opera and their contributions to this production.

Outstanding!

TT=95 mins; LPCM Stereo, DTS 5.1; Subtitles English, French, German, Spanish, Italian.

Scott Morrison
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Further info on an outstanding rarity 4 May 2009
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Rachmaninov wrote only three operas, Aleko, The Miserly Knight (1906, written between the second and third piano concerti) and Francesca da Rimini. The story of 'The Miserly Knight' is essentially philosophical, presented as the tale of how greed robs people of their humanity. It is adapted from Pushkin, and retains most of the elements of Pushkin's blank verse poem.
This is a thought-provoking psychological work set to dark and haunting music. It is not the Rachmaninov of the piano concerti; less lyrical and more dramatic, but just as appealing, with great melodic orchestral sweeps. It is written in the style of German opera - no actual arias to remain in the memory, but very musical (read: listenable and enjoyable) recitative employing leitmotivs. The 'musical' progression comes more from the drama, which leads the music.
This is an opera that must be done well to succeed, and on this performance it succeeds in every respect. It is a masterpiece, and makes you wish that Rachmaninov had written more operas.
The original setting is England in Medieval times, but like so many productions, it has been modernized into an abstract setting of indefinite period. This works well, except for the appearance of one character in a modern suit. The musical performance, as others have observed, is wonderful. The opera was written for Chaliapin, and the Russian baritone, Sergei Leiferkus, is marvelous in that role of the 'miserly Knight', especially in a 20 minute monolog in the second scene. This amazing passage justifies buying the DVD just for that passage alone.
Most of the small cast is Russian and there is not one weak link. Jarowski, with one of the world's greatest orchestras, captures the unique Russian feel, and interprets every part of the score perfectly.
If you look at my reviews, they are nearly all 5 stars: this is because I only review releases that I think are excellent, wanting to share an enjoyable performance with others. This release is an absolute must for every lover of late-romantic opera, (it deserves 6 stars), one of the best releases of any genre it has been my pleasure to review. Recorded with high-definition cameras, and with top-rate 5.1 sound engineering; this coupled with excellent camera work and direction (I was looking for Brian Large's name in the credits, in vain) you are provided with a technically first-class record of the performance. Sound, 5.1 DTS, image 16:9, duration approx. 95 minutes.. (If you know someone with a large screen projection system, say 100" or more) and good surround sound, prevail on them to let you watch this on such a system). Buy it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great opera and production 21 May 2007
By A. Lupu - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Not much of a plot, but who cares. The music is great and the signing just beautiful. The long monologue (about 24 minutes) is opera at its best. The soul, and not necessarily the best moral one, put in music.

worth listening many times.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gloriously dark brooding music you'll love! 12 Nov. 2008
By P. Sutherland - Published on Amazon.com
I can hardly add to the comments of previous reviewers with whom I am in complete agreement. But, I wanted to do some raving myself. The music of this short drama is so dark and powerful and beautiful, you will marvel at it and want to hear it again and again. The production and entire cast are simply perfect; I can't imagine this story done any other way.

Sergei Leiferkus in the title role as the baron gives a ten star performance. Matilda Leyser, the aerialist who appears with the knight as a haunting, shadowy, creepy presence accentuates the brooding power of the music. She's like a demonic spider dangling within reach, revelling at the baron's twisted greed. In other productions where an extra character is thrown in by the director I find this very irritating, but here, it works.

Vladimir Jurowski brings the music to its ultimate expression.

You'll love this!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very fine on its own but get the Blu-ray version for Puccini as well 29 July 2012
By I. Giles - Published on Amazon.com
The Miserly Knight was composed by Rachmaninov in 1904 when he was only 30. The original tale was written by Pushkin as one of an intended series of poems depicting the 7 deadly sins. In the event only 4 were completed and none of them were intended for performance. For this rarely-performed work Rachmaninov set the story almost word for word from the original and thus dispensed with a librettist. It is told in three scenes with 5 principals and no chorus.

To quote the sleeve notes: `The narrative is so bald, it can be compressed into two sentences. The Baron keeps his son Albert in penury, compelling him to rely on moneylenders for finance and finally to throw himself on the mercy of the local feudal duke. When the duke confronts the Baron with his miserly greed, the Baron slanders Albert, is challenged to a duel, and in a state of shock, collapses and dies'.

There is a central 20 minute monologue where the Baron broods on his accumulated wealth during which nothing dramatic happens. This situation seems unpromising but omits the extraordinarily effective and vital role of Rachmaninov's orchestration. Those who are familiar with his `Isle of the Dead' symphonic work will be aware of his considerable abilities in painting such atmospheric scenes by way of orchestral colouring. This grim tale therefore fits the composer's psyche and musical imagination and skills perfectly and the result is a compressed tale of gripping dramatic effect.

The Glyndebourne setting of this tale is fittingly dark and forbidding, lacking in any civilising softness. Jurowski is able to conjure up powerfully dark textures and sounds from the fine London Philharmonic which is on top form. The roles of the Baron (Sergei Leiferkus), his son Albert (Richard Berkeley-Steele), Albert's servant (Maxim Mikhailov), the moneylender (Viacheslav Voynarovskiy) and the Duke (AlbertSchagidullin) are all sung and acted superlatively additionally benefitting from several authentic Eastern European vocal textures.

In summary therefore, this claustrophobic tale is given a reading that for many, including myself, would be considered near definitive. The camera work of Opus Arte is ideal as is the sound, presented in PCM 5.1 and stereo. This was enthusiastically received by the Glyndebourne audience even though, for many, it would have been a very dark debut experience.

However this performance is also available on Blu-ray coupled with a near definitive version of Puccini's Gianni Schicchi in an equally fine performance and production. This pair of operas constitutes the whole of the double bill presented at Glyndebourne and is far better value as a purchase. The short playing time and the better value alternative on Blu-ray explains the dropped star to 4.
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