Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Creating a Modern Myth

The Minotaur (Opus Arte)
The future is now for opera recordings, as this work by British modernist Harrison Birtwistle, which premiered in London in April 2008, is available only on DVD and Blu-ray, not CD. The Minotaur—a staggeringly powerful work by Birtwistle, whose earlier operas tended toward the obscure, dramatically and musically—is a perfect example of how Blu-ray’s high-definition visuals and surround-sound audio give opera fans the best possible conditions under which to appreciate any work, new or old. Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Opera House Chorus in a superb reading of Birtwistle’s characteristically thorny, spiky score; the performers—led by John Tomlinson’s Minotaur, Johan Reuter’s Theseus and Christine Rice’s Ariadne—handle the fiendishly difficult vocal and dramatic demands. Stephen Langridge’s staging is both direct and metaphorical, the perfect visualization of this Greek myth. The lone extra is a half-hour behind-the-scenes documentary, Myth Is Universal.
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