Hamlet

 

Ambroise Thomas Hamlet opera to libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier. Directed 2018 by Cyril Teste at the Opéra Comique. Stars Stéphane Degout (Hamlet), Sabine Devieilhe (Ophélie), Laurent Alvaro (Claudius), Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo (Gertrude), Julien Behr (Laërte), Jérôme Varnier (the Ghost), Kevin Amiel (Marcellus, Second Gravedigger), Yoann Dubruque (Horatio, First Gravedigger), and Nicolas Legoux (Polonius). Louis Langrée conducts the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées and Les éléments (Chorus Master Joël Suhubiette). Set design by Ramy Fischler; costume design by Isabelle Deffin; lighting design by Julien Boizard; production design by Nicolas Dorémus and Mehdi Toutain-Lopez; dramaturgy by Leila Adham. Directed for TV by François Roussillon. Sung in French. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

There is a terrific Wikipedia article about this French grand opera that was playing all over Europe while the Americans were mourning Abraham Lincoln. Thomas wrote the opera in large part because of the odd fact that the tragic femme fragile character of Ophelia had become in Europe a powerful meme in literature and even high fashion (think about the Wilis from Giselle). And since the most popular theme in all opera is the death of a beautiful young woman, I wonder if it would have been smarter to name the opera Ophélie (Ophelia in English) rather than Hamlet. In the picture gallery above I’ve included 3 Wikipedia images of Ophélie.

Of course it was necessary to vastly simplify the plot to do Hamlet even in 5 acts. This has always caused Shakespeare purists to writhe in anguish and threaten to drown themselves. Still, the Thomas take, while never being in repertory anywhere, has been performed quite a few time down through the decades, and there is even a DVD. But subject title will be the first HDVD. I note that Cyril Teste updated this to generic modern times. This should be fun to watch since I shouldn’t have to puzzle too much over the plot.

Please note the video file was recorded by the great François, always a good sign of high quality. I used to associate publisher Naxos with low cost-productions. But in 2019 we have had 6 new promising titles from Naxos and François. It seems FRA (originally the label run by François Roussillon) is no longer publishing. It also appears FRA is helping Naxos step up their game to compete headon with the traditional “full-price” producers of classical videos.

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