La alegría de la
On the evidence of these DVD editions, the 2002 double bill at Jarvis Conservatory was a deserved hit with audiences and company alike. The production, in Spanish traditional mode, was sensitively and sensibly staged, the settings solidly handsome. The dancing was focussed and apt in style, exhilarating in execution. The classic scores themselves were presented pretty much unadorned and entire.
Musical preparation was impeccable, with orchestral playing and singing (in Spanish, with English subtitles available) uniformly good. Kristin Peterson's touching Carola, Janelle Rollinson's sensual gypsy and Jimmy Kansau's nicely reticent Alegrías were the pick in the Chueca, whilst Valentina Osinski had the amplitude and stamina necessary for the highly demanding, central role of Pilar in Gigantes ...
Things were less happy in the spoken parts. No fault of William Jarvis's pithily direct English version (Spanish subtitles available), and director Daniel Helfgot had clearly done his best to help some less than gifted actors come over as plausibly as possible. Video is a cruel medium, though, and what was acceptable live can become a trial in the cold light of home viewing. Dialogue is slow, especially in La alegría; and the humour is sometimes laboured. Johnny Wariner, suitably supple and svelte as the villainous Sargeant in Gigantes, paradoxically makes too much and yet too little of the ambitious, frustrated music maestro Heriberto in La alegría, a figure of Shakespearian resonance at once ludicrous and touching.
The camera work and video direction are of the fine standard we have come to take for granted from the Napa team. There is a great sense of the live occasion about these DVDs, though the flow is occasionally broken by some less than seamless editing, and one disconcerting hiatus - the entire central section of Pilar's great "letter" scene has gone missing, due to timing demands for a TV broadcast. None of this precludes a recommendation for these DVD's, as attractive mementos of enjoyable performances.
This pair are also available in both NTSC and PAL video formats; though here the competition is strong, with two of the better professional productions from late 1990's Madrid still commercially available (at least in Spanish PAL). These Teatro Calderon stagings featured seasoned artists of the calibre of Guadalupe Sanchez in the lead roles, but the production and musical values at least of Jarvis's productions need fear no odium from the comparison.
© Christopher Webber, 2004