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Rameau - Les Boréades / Robert Carsen, La La La Human Steps, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie, Opéra National de Paris [DVD] 
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Director Robert Carsen and his creative team flood the stage with summer blossoms, drifts of autumn leaves, winter snows and thunderous spring storms. The cast of 140 are attired in elegant costumes inspired by late 1940s Dior. This mythical tale of a young queen, Alphise, determined to abdicate rather than contemplate an enforced marriage to a descendant of Boreas, is nothing less than highly-charged.
"It's possible to recreate everything about an eighteenth century opera except the audience,’ says director Robert Carsen in a documentary included with this DVD. ‘My work is for modern audiences.’ And how...In this brilliant production, Carsen goes to the heart of the drama...Michael Levine's stylised, bold designs allow the story to unfold with gripping clarity and, remarkably, some of the spectacular set-pieces (especially the storm in Act III) work even better on DVD than in the theatre itself. Barbara Bonney is vocally and dramatically stunning as Alphise…Conductor William Christie responds to Rameau's varied and colourful score with élan, and Édouard Lock's choreography – a version of classical ballet deconstructed and then pumped with amphetamines – is breathtaking." (Classic fM - DVD Best Buy)
"The cast...is excellent...The hero of the occasion is the conductor. Once again William Christie justifies the florid metaphors he used when naming Les Arts Florissants.
" (The New Statesman)
"The cast...is excellent...The hero of the occasion is the conductor. Once again William Christie justifies the florid metaphors he used when naming Les Arts Florissants
" (New Statesman)
CastBarbara Bonney (Alphise)Paul Agnew (Abaris)Laurent Naouri (Boree)Stéphane Degout (Borilée)Nicolas Rivenq (Adamas)
Les Arts Florissants; William ChristieStage Director: Robert Carsen
Catalogue Number: OA0899DRunning Time: 218 minutesSound: Dolby Surround; Dolby StereoAspect Ratio: 16:9 AnamorphicSubtitles: EN, FR, DE, ESLabel: Opus Arte
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With the help of the magic golden arrow given to him by Eros, Abaris sets off to rescue her. He challenges Boreas and his sons with the golden arrow. Apollo(Nicolas Rivenq) descends and reveals that Abaris is really his son by a Boread nymph.
Although the story line is a little ridiculous, the composition of this opera has some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard and the production itself is enthralling to watch. Rameau's stunning music blends drama, emotion and passion wonderfully, both in the orchestral work and the singing, creating an outstanding effect.
Toby Spence and Stephane Degout were brilliant as the foolish and cruel princes. Spence's (one of my favorite Tenor's) rendition of "Jouissons de nos beaux ans" was perfect, with excellent pitch and great control of this difficult aria.
Barbara Bonney is wonderful in this role, her fiery performance of the aria "Un horizon serein" was fantastic. Her voice is very skillfull and although she does not exclusively specialize in Baroque opera, she adjusted her voice brilliantly, sounding splendid.
However the one that stole the show for me was Paul Agnew as Abaris. His voice created sounds of effortless beauty, with a subtle and delicate tone, which made him stand out from the rest of the singers.
Accompanied by the ballet company La La Human Steps,this production is a great interpretation of Rameau's beautiful baroque opera and definitely worth purchasing.
It was a brilliant idea to engage the La La La Human Steps dancers who admirably enacted how the wind blows in its less dangerous forms from zephyrs to strong breezes. As I watched them dance I thought to myself how cleverly they were interpreting precisely how I've so often felt the breezes blowing and how they would increase and decrease through time. The way in which the choreography blended in with the music, singing and acting could not have been better achieved.
I simply loved to bits all the music and singing. The chemistry between Barbara Bonney as Alphise and Paul Agnew as Aharis was electrifying and, wow, can they sing! No one could have performed better. The rest of the cast were equally good in their roles, all of them performing just like winds do. For me, this opera is all about the personification of wind and the North Wind, or Borealis, in particular. Having been brought up in a very rural environment I've always been acutely aware of the importance of both wind direction and wind force and Rameau has cleverly interpreted all this into music, dancing and singing.
I can recall how, as a child, I used to skip and dance into the wind through the flower meadow beyond the large garden behind our house and how my mother would call for me to come back because the rain clouds were approaching. Maybe Rameau had similar childhood experiences and, in his special brilliance, was able to turn them into this great operatic art work. Although the North Wind is the one usually associated with cold weather, in the Suffolk of my youth, we knew better. The truly cold wind was the East Wind blowing across Europe straight from Siberia. Great steel-blue clouds would loom up from the East and the old people would say they were snow clouds; and they certainly were. Ryder Haggard once said that the native Suffolk and Norfolk people were 'a strange people born of the East Wind.' Maybe this is why I love this opera, especially this interpretation of it, so much and why it means so much to me. Rameau certainly understood wind and this brilliant production of his great opera has done him proud. I thoroughly recommend it.
The sets are interesting for the most part, but the relevance of some are lost on me.
Costumes are varied, the Boreans in black are pretty good, but the Apollonions seem to be in a mix of underwear and Judo costumes.
The ballet sections which are important of course in a Rameau entertainment are jerky, and rather ugly, and I failed to see the significance.
There is a one hour documentary on disc 2 which is quite interesting, but the section on choreography failed to enlighten me.
The booklet is quite good, with a piece by piece headliner for for each act, and a separate synopsis, which is perhaps a little brief. There is also a background to the creation of the opera.
I give this four stars because of the quality of the singing and the music.
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