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An outstanding production of an under-produced opera
Saint Saens' Henry VIII may not be among the greatest operas and doesn't contain many well-known arias, but it does deserve to be better known with a story and theme that almost everybody would know if they studied Henry VIII and the Tudors and would have no difficulty following and the music is very melodic and beautiful. As of now, this production is the only one of the opera on DVD and it does absolutely nothing to disgrace it, if anything it's one of those productions where you do appreciate the opera more. It is a fantastic production visually, with lots of handsome colours and sumptuous costumes and sets that are remarkably true to the Tudor period. The cinematography is both unobtrusive and expansive, and compliments the production values perfectly. The staging is very traditional and all the better for it, I don't think because of how specific the setting is that the opera would work updated, and has a lot of compelling drama and with lively choreography when needed. If you liked the music for Samson and Delila, Saint Saens' most well-known opera and unsurprisingly, you will like the music for Henry VIII. It is very beautifully played by the orchestra, with plenty of vigour and nuances, and tautly conducted by Alain Guingal. The picture and sound quality are very good, especially for Kultur, apart from the occasional moment in ensembles where some were more prominent than others. There are some great performances here, especially from the most authoritative titular performance of Phillippe Rouillon, who does bear a physical and visual resemblance to Henry that it is like seeing him come alive, and Michele Command's sincere Catherine of Aragon whose Act III aria is one of the production's highlights. Lucile Vignon has a generously-sized voice that has an appealing sound to it, and she brings dignity to Anne Boleyn and while Alain Gabriel is a touch under-powered as Don Gomez he still has a lovely voice and is no slouch as an actor either. All in all, an outstanding production of an opera that should be heard and produced more because while it's not one of the greats it's still a very worthwhile opera indeed. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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