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DVD Review

Lorin Maazel


Opera in 3 Acts
  • Simon Keenlyside
  • Nancy Gustaffson
  • Richard Margison
  • Diana Damrau
  • Laurence Brownlee
The Demon Barbers (as the Pub Quintet)
Orchestra & Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Lorin Maazel
Decca 2DVDs 0743289 147m
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Bringing George Orwell's telling story of totalitarian horror and cruelty to the stage is undoubtedly a herculean task, fraught with many pitfalls, but this pioneering project must be praised not only for its vision, but more so for execution.

J.D. McClatchy's and Thomas Meehan's libretto is a masterpiece in itself and Orwell's brutal tale is narrated with a realism that strikes both fear and anger into one's inner self. Robert Lepage's stage direction penetrates into the very soul of the characters with unsparing intensity; the Examination Room sequence in Act 3 is by far the most revolting experience in the history of opera and you must be prepared to stomach some to stay with it till the end.

Maazel's score is a mixture of the atonal and neo-romantic based on Wagner's leitmotif style; a perfect musical package for the unfolding of this terrifying nightmare of a story which still goes on and on. The singing and acting by the main soloists is absolutely riveting, with Simon Keenlyside's performance must be one of the greatest ever at the Royal Opera. He practically sings in every conceivable position, except head down, of course, and the physical exertions heaped upon him by Lepage verge on the inhuman.

1984 is a truly towering stage work that sweeps you off your feet and leaves you breathless and anguished. Superb sound and vision complete a memorable set of a modern operatic landmark that will be with us for many years to come.

Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech