French composer Ambroise Thomas sticks close to Shakespeare's basic plot, with an added Mad Scene for Ophelia. Simon Keenlyside is the brooding Prince of Denmark, for whom the play's the thing in which to catch the conscience of the king.

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Episode credited cast:
Simon Keenlyside ...
Marlis Petersen ...
Jennifer Larmore ...
Toby Spence ...
James Morris ...
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Metropolitan Opera Ballet ...
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Richard Bernstein ...
Liam Bonner ...
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Louis Langrée ...
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Maxim Mikhailov ...
David Pittsinger ...
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Matthew Plenk ...
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French composer Ambroise Thomas sticks close to Shakespeare's basic plot, with an added Mad Scene for Ophelia. Simon Keenlyside is the brooding Prince of Denmark, for whom the play's the thing in which to catch the conscience of the king.

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classical | See All (1) »

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27 March 2010 (USA)  »

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Remake of Hamlet, Ambroise Thomas (2004) See more »

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Dénouement de Covent Garden
19 July 2011 | by (Birmingham, England) – See all my reviews

I see that this is billed as Thomas' Hamlet so that there will be absolutely no confusion in audience minds that they might be watching something remotely related to the Shakespeare play. Actually, I rather like Abroise Thomas' stripped down and sanitised version of Hamlet. Rumours that Hamlet and Ophelia live happily ever after and open a boarding house in Weston-Super-Mare are slightly exaggerated. In fact, the most surprising thing about this production is that they play what is known as the Covent Garden ending. In the original version of the opera, in Paris in 1868, Hamlet does indeed survive. Thomas changed the ending for the London production of 1870, killing off Hamlet in the process, although there seems to be some doubt as to whether this ending was ever performed until the present day.

Simon Keenlyside is outstanding both vocally and dramatically as Hamlet. In fact, I could imagine that he would acquit himself quite well if he ever got the chance to play Shakespeare's Hamlet. Marlis Petersen steps in for the indisposed Natalie Dessay as Ophélie. These are big shoes to fill, since the dramatic highlight of Thomas' opera is the Ophélie's mad scene and suicide. Nobody does mad like Natalie Dessay. Marlis Petersen, a Kate Middleton lookalike in an ivory wedding dress, gives a pleasant but more restrained performance. I was intrigued by the pillow strapped to her stomach to indicate a phantom pregnancy. I loved Jennifer Larmore's bat out of hell Queen Gertrude but I was less impressed with James Morris' rather croaky Claudius.

The production is directed by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser. Pat and Mo always seem to produce their operas on a shoestring. Usually their productions look cheap but sometimes, as in this case, they can be very effective. They use a minimum of scenery which makes the drama flow effectively. The costumes are elaborate so the overall effect is reminiscent of how Shakespeare's Hamlet might be performed at Stratford.

This is a hugely enjoyable account of Thomas' opera and it compares favourably with the previous version that I have seen starring Thomas Hampson and Natalie Dessay. Nevertheless, Simon Keenlyside and Marlis Peterson have nothing like the sexual chemistry of Hampson and Dessay. I think my ideal pairing would be Keenlyside and Dessay. Such a DVD does in fact exist. I really ought to put it on my Christmas list.


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