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DVD Review

John Gay/Benjamin Britten

The Beggars Opera

  • Roger Jerome
  • David Jerome
  • David Hartley
  • Brian Handley
  • David Kelly
  • Bernard Dickinson
  • Heather Harper
  • Janet Baker
  • Kenneth McKellar
English Chamber Orchestra/Meredith Davies
Decca DVD 0743329 94m B&W Mono Full Screen
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This seminal production of the John Gay/Benjamin Britten arrangement of "The Beggar's Opera" filmed in 1963 has finally seen the light of day and what a performance it is. The music and stage drama comes to life as it never has since and the sheer dramatic force of Britten's superb concept surely remains the version to retain for posterity.

There is a host of impressive soloist's in the lengthy cast to this work which epitomizes the best the BBC had to offer in the halcyon days of the 1960's. It is inexplicable that this splendid film has remained languishing in the vaults of the national broadcaster for almost fifty years. The soloists contain many illustrious names such as Heather Harper, Dame Janet Baker and Kenneth McKellar apart from other lesser known but no less talented singers such as Anna Pollak, Edith Jones and David Hartley.

As explained in the lengthy booklet note, the work can clearly be considered to be part of Britten's operatic output as he introduced several new musical elements to the score as originally written by Gay and the dramatic content thus changes pretty radically also. I can only say that I was bowled over for an hour and a half by the splendid performance which literally comes into your living room like a ghost bang from the past. This DVD is an unforgettable experience through and through.

Copyright © 2009, Gerald Fenech