In which I fail to ‘get’ dubbed opera films

I’ve reviewed a fair few films of operas on this blog. They have all been of a kind where a director rehearses a cast they record the opera in the studio and then film a lip synched version either on set or on location. There are also films where the opera is recorded in the studio thenan entirely different cast mimes the opera on location. Petyer Weigl’s 1988 film of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin comes into this category.  It started life as a perfectly normal studio recording and then Weigl filmed it on location, presumably in Russia, and in the process cut nearly a quarter of the music.  The approach doean’t work for me.  However good the film actors are, they look like film actors miming someone else and in so doing much of the interpersonal drama is lost.  The result is that it’s like listening to the CDs with eye candy. 

That said, the music making is pretty decent.  Georg Solti is conducting John Alldis Choir and the Royal Opera House Orchestra and he’s as good as Solti usually is.  The singing soloists are perfectly OK too.  Teresa Kubiak is a sweet toned, lyric soprano who is quite expressive, if perhaps not getting right into the Slavic depths in, for example, the final duet.  Bernd Weikl is a suitably correct, cold Onegin but again the last degree of passion isn’t there.  Stuart Burrows though is a very fine, introspective Lensky.  But really, why not buy the CDs and hear the full version?  Weigl’s film is very literal and has nothing to say dramatically.  It is very pretty though with lots of splendid birch forests, cavorting peasants and glitzy ball room scenes.  His acting cast all look rather fine and do a decent job of what must be rather difficult acting.

The technical aspects are OK.  It’s typical “film transferred to DVD picture quality in 4:3 ratio which seems a bit odd.  Presumably it was intended for TV though no TV company is credited.  The sound is DTS 5.1 synthesized from original stereo.  It’s quite good though a little congested in busy passages and it does very much sound like a static studio recording.  There’s a PCM stereo option.  English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese subtitles.  The documentation is basic and there are no bonuses on the disk.

No, really, I don’t get the point.

2 thoughts on “In which I fail to ‘get’ dubbed opera films

  1. I don’t get it either – are they trying to be ‘accessible’, like giving the audience something pretty to watch so no one gets bored? There seems to have been a vogue for this kind of film in the 70s and 80s.

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