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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 20 July 2013
I seem to be adding to other comments here, but I had to put in my couple of penceworth. I was so looking forward to seeing this. I'm a big Massenet fan, and for me, Jonas Kaufmann is currently the best tenor around (apart from being astonishingly good-looking - in operatic terms at least). The production looked promising too, no crass updating or 're-imagining'.
Sadly, the whole thing is utterly spoilt by the decision to make the DVD more 'interesting' by whizzing the camera all over the place. I cannot begin to understand what the reason for this might be, unless it is fear of boring the viewer. TV directors seem to be in mortal fear of their audience's attention wandering, but not everyone has the attention-span of a goldfish, especially, I would think, an opera audience. The idea, surely, is to see what is going on on the stage, and get caught up in the 'world of the opera'. I want to see all of the opera as a performance on stage, not shots of the conductor or the orchestra (this slightly marred the otherwise excellent DVD of Turn of the Screw from Schwetzinger). Benoit Jacquot, or whoever was responsible for directing the DVD, not only gives us conductor and orchestra, but backstage shots of the cast out of character and disturbing shots of the stage action seen sideways on or at a jaunty angle to the stage, so that the piercingly blue sky of the act 1 set suddenly becomes black, and then changes back to bright blue.
I wanted to give this DVD many stars for the cast, which is excellent, and the production, which is meticulous and attractive, but I just cannot live with the tiresome tricksy camerawork. I'm going to get rid of my copy.
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on 17 December 2010
I love all (well, most) operas, French operas in particular, and Massenet is one of my favourite composers. I have lots of CDs, and several DVDs of his operas. Among the latter, two give me particular pleasure. There's 'Manon' from Barcelona, with Dessay and Villazon, lovely production which I remember from ENO years ago. Now there's this 'Werther' from Paris. The title role has to be performed by a tenor with almost Wagnerian resources, and really should convince us in his appearance and acting that he IS the passionate, almost neurotic young dreamer of the libretto. On CD this latter requirement can be forgotten, but on stage, no. Here Jonas Kaufmann really scores, being young-looking (he's 40),utterly Romantic, in the literary sense, and with a voice capable of fully realising Massenet's intentions for the role. In addition, his French is pretty good, and he acts the part without recourse to sobs, undue gesture or vocal distortion. Truly the werther of one's dreams.

Sophie Koch also convinces as Charlotte, though in close-up her grimaces are sometimes off-putting. Being French,despite her Germanic surname,she articulates the text meaningfully, and always sings with accuracy and feeling for the music; this is a distinguishes performance. I was happy to find Ludovic Tezier as Albert, he's one of the best French singers today. The others are fine, though in close-up, Sophie looks older than Charlotte.

Any grumbles? Only minor ones. All the men except Werther wear knee-breeches, but Werther has anticipated the 1798 Revolution's influence and sports trousers - more Byronic, I suppose. The big annoyance is the producer's habit of showing the singers in the wings as they prepare to enter, or after their exit. Not only does this spoil some of the theatrical surprises, but there are jarring moments such as Kaufmann's grin and 'thumbs-up' just before his first, melancholy entrance. But just grit your teeth through these clever-dick moments, and enjoy this lovely performance in a conventional, i.e. sensible production.
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on 28 May 2016
I loved the production. So pure theatre and traditional. Massenet would have been delighted. Only one reservation and that was the back stage shots during the performance. It took the edge off the front of house drama that the audience were experiencing and was in no way adding to the production! Interesting as those back stage clips were they could have been put into a bonus track after wards.
Kauffmann was brilliant and put a harder masculine edge to a role that can border on being to melancholic and over dramatized. Koch was also brilliant - the woman trapped in a loveless marriage but fighting with her sense of duty. Together their duets kept you on a knife edge of nervous tension. Even if you did not know the outcome of the story you could feel all the way through that there would be very bad consequences and of course there were.
Massenet's music wanders and weaves and his skill in economy with melodies keep you riveted for the next one to come along. I have always likened him as the French Puccini. I love the re occurring melody at the end of act one and again running through act two with brief references at the final act. If you heard that blind and didn't know it was Massenet you would swear it was Puccini.
I already mentioned the staging which was so traditional in period and scenic design. I am a purist and love to see Operas as the composer envisaged and not as some five minute wonder director on an ego trip mutilates and defiles these classics. For the most part these days I never venture to see new live productions, which are generally expensive and so disappointing for me, even sometimes making me angry.
The orchestra under Plasson was delicious but then there are not many living French Conductors who know the music so well and have the natural nuance for such a classic. Absolutely a winner - apart from the backstage annoyance during performance! That much apart I think its brilliant!
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on 31 December 2015
Roberto Alagna is currently unrivalled in the French operatic tenor repertoire and he here gives a masterclass in how the role of Werther should be performed both vocally and dramatically. Alagna is rightly the central pillar of this production but the real delight is that all the other components are virtually perfect too. Kate Aldrich as Charlotte is almost Alagna's equal both vocally and certainly dramatically and the sheer magnetic chemistry of the two together is almost overwhelming. All the other characters are also vocally and dramatically excellent and the production as a whole is as near to a perfect performance as it is possible to imagine. It is the production of my dreams and finally realises what I had always hoped for in this opera. It is an order of magnitude better than the latest production with Kaufmann in the title role, largely because that performance has such minimalist scenery, but also because Alagna is head and shoulders above Kaufmann in this repertoire, just as Kaufmann is supreme in the German repertoire.

The scenery in this production from Turin is superb as befits one of the greatest of the late romantic operas. It is opulent and detailed. This is matched by similarly rich and detailed costuming. The whole is caught brilliantly by the filming in 16:9 format. A model of modern staged opera recording.

The Orchestre du Teatro Regio di Torino play wonderfully well under the baton of Alain Guingnal and all the sheer richness, beauty and dramatic detail of Massenet's great score come across clearly and the orchestra and vocalists are extremely well recorded on a fine soundtrack in both PCM and DTS options.
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on 22 February 2016
A fine performance by all the cast members and excellent support from an incisive orchestra. Massenet's melodious score makes enjoyable listening and the production a joy to watch.
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on 17 March 2017
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on 8 August 2012
Yes... why to wake up if I'd be better asleep dreaming of "Werther"?

Sometimes I can't find the appropriate words to express my enthusiasm, and the day I saw and listened this astonishing version was one of those...

Jonas Kaufmann and Sophie Koch, two of the greatest World Opera names at the moment, Sing and Act together in this remarkable Opera. And the Opera is remarkable not only because of Music and Text but also because of their stunning Singing and Performing!

To Summarise: Werther is a melancholic young Poet, who falls in love with Charlotte a very special young Woman daughter of a Magistrate, whose wife's death forced him to live alone with nine Children. Charlotte the eldest, runs the household with the help of her sister Sophie. But Charlotte is engaged to Albert ( Ludovic Tézier ), not because she loves him but to accomplish the promise she made to her mother that she would marry him. So when Charlotte meets Werther, a strong and immediate feeling has born between them, and the way they deal with it leads them to pain and suffering until Werther gives up on Life.
Somewhere, someone compared the Character of Werther to Lenski, the young Poet of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin".
I'd never thought about that but I agree with some similarity. Perhaps Lenski is less melancholic... though both share the same identical spirits and ( for different reasons ) die Young.

Kaufmann is one of the best (if not the best) Ténor of his generation and for now he owns the Medal. But... Ténor or Baritone? I'd say half-Ténor and half-Baritone! An almost impossible "wedding" that probably makes the difference not to forget his seductive and Velvety Voice!
I suppose the German Singer will keep this Medal at least for the next Decade! And this is a prediction...because beyond the excellent Singer and Performer there's an Intelligent and Humble Person witch reminds me the two perfect Symbols of Greatness, Intelligence and Humility of last Century's World of Opera: Domingo and Pavarotti.

I've met Mezzo-Soprano Sophie Koch years ago, when I had the chance to see and listen her in two interesting Male Roles: Sièbel of Gounot's "Faust" and Octavian of Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier". Though Charlotte's Role is her notable work until now!

Although Kaufmann is always impressive, Werther's Role also suits him like glove! And they are a magic couple in two of the most dramatic moments of this Opera: the unexpected appearence of Werther in Charlotte's house while she's grieving his absence, ending with the famous Aria "Pourquoi me Réveiller" brilliantly sung. The other is the scene of Werther's death in last Act brilliantly performed by both.

Awsome Performers with terrific voices and a body language out of definition! Even their tragic moments of silence are audible! When listening to them, the only thing that occured to me was: " They are not from this World!"

A remarkable French supporting Cast led by Sophie Koch, a wonderful HD Picture and Stage Direction by Benoit Jacquot at the Opera Bastille of Paris, and the emblematic presence of French Maestro Michel Plasson conducting L'Orchestre de L'Opera National de Paris, and bringing to Life this superb Romantic and Tragic Opera!

To the lovers of Music and the Excellence of Stage:
Don't miss This!
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on 14 July 2014
Beautifully, beautifully sung. An incredible intensity that captures the spirit of Goethe's story. Buy it!
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on 1 January 2015
This performance was recorded in 2005, not released until late 2014 - but definitely worth the wait and fuss. The booklet only says it was "remastered" but no details. I attended the original production at the Teatro Regio di Torino in 2005 and I don't recall hearing of any plans to video in that theater.

Alagna and the rest of the cast are in wonderful voice here, the staging is gorgeous and the video and audio are near perfect, with an entirely natural soundstage in 5.1. The Teatro stage but it is spacious, enough to accommodate the facade of a French manor house in act 1, with generous stone steps and garden. There is discrete applause at end of acts, with some use of steadicam within the set; a close-up of writing with a quill pen by candlelight that you couldn't really see from the audience.

Live (well behaved) animals are used, one large dog and two horses with carriages. Every effort is expanded to make the set look as naturally realistic as possible, short of filming outdoors.

In addition to the singing and orchestral accompaniment, the entire cast acts very convincingly. And, there's no backstage mugging, entrances and spoken nonsense to spoil the experience of the drama.

I recently bought the Koch/Kaufmann Werther and was very disappointed when they were unable to hold the focus due to singing, acting, nonsense goings-on. And the stage was so sharply raked it was distracting.

Alagna was especially effective in the last Act, an entirely believable death scene. Kate Aldrich was excellent as well, reminding me of a young Crespin, with a warm lower range but able to project clearly and convey her emotions.

I have enjoyed the Fassbaender/Dvorsky DVD for many years, but this new one clearly surpasses all other contenders. I hope that the Alagna will be offered on blu-ray, but the signal quality on this DVD pushes the envelope, and I will happily re-buy this as blu-ray if/when that day comes.

This DVD is top quality video and audio, but it is released in PAL format, which won't play on some US players.
It is a standard format in Europe. If your player is not marked "region 2" there is an easy remedy.
I really wanted to see this having waited so long, and found that Amazon offers "multi region DVD players" for $50 or less.

I ordered a Philips DVP2880/f7 player for about $50, plugged it and off we went. It will play any DVD in the world, and with an extra player I don't have to switch disks back and forth if I don't finish a program in one sitting. No fuss or need to change settings, except switching to "input 2" on the TV. Most blu-ray discs are region-free.

In my experience, for electrical items and DVDs where there might be a compatibility issue, I always buy from "Amazon.com" - their money back guarantee is totally hassle-free. It is SO worth it!
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on 7 August 2013
Fabulous singing, acting and sets but the whole DVD absolutely ruined by the camera direction showing off stage scenes during the performance. For me opera is extreme escapism transporting the audience. Any illusion was shattered. I cannot think why this was necessary the opera house audience did not see views off stage etc. I can only think the director of the DVD thought his audience would get bored with the opera without such gimmicks. Such little faith he has.
Kaufmann is outstanding as are all the other cast members, the sound is good, I would suggest only buying this if you want to hear it with the picture switched off.
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