Carl Orff wanted to see some sort of staging of his musical score, Carmina Burana. I'd like to think he would have approved of this one. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle films Carmina among stage pieces that often take the viewer where no theater audience could go. The effect is a bit like entering a Bosch painting.
This is the same method Ponnelle used with a number of operas, but here he is more free to create a fantasy world of images; here he has only a series of poems; no plot structure to furnish. If a few of the effects look a bit primitive, others are magical. And sometimes the whiplash from comedy to horror was so swift that I found myself questioning the smugness that led me to question this or that image, and I quickly found myself immersed in the work again.
The DVD has English subtitles for the Latin. How wonderful finally to be able to follow the text all the way through! However, I urge you, watch WITHOUT TEXT the first time through. The musical performance is good enough that, if you like the work, you'll happily go back. Orff chose to set Latin because he wanted us to take the meaning from the music. Trust that the outrageous things occurring on stage grow from the text, and submit to the pull of sounds and images. Words will clog the process, and the images will surprise and delight best on that first encounter if you're not busy reading. I'm a fan of subtitled movies, but we process words differently from sound.
I bought the DVD of this for the movie, but any movie of Carmina would be of passing interest if not well sung and played. This one is excellent. I have long admired Lucia Popp's Queen of the Night for Klemperer, and she is as good here. The rest of the cast and the orchestra is also up to the competition.
Alas, to my knowledge the DVD has never been issued in the US. I got my copy from England and play it in the US on my laptop which knows nothing of region codes and is equally happy playing PAL as NTSC. With laptop connected to my sound system I had a front row seat. No extra software was required for this on my Mac. I've been trying to see this production for 30 years. It says a lot that I wasn't disappointed.
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