Poppea // Poppea


Poppea // Poppea dance piece.  Original choreography by Christian Spuck based on Monteverdi's opera L'Incoronazione di Poppea. Music by Martin Donner, Claudio Monteverdi, Robert Schumann, Emiliana Torrini, Cat Power, John Paul von Westhoff, and Geminiani. Performed for this video 2013 by Gauthier Dance, the dance company of Theaterhaus Stuttgart. Stars Eric Gauthier, Anneleen Dedroog, Miriam Gronwald, Anna Harms, Maria Prat Balasch, Rosario Guerra, Florian Lochner, William Moragas, David Valencia Martinez, and Tars Vondebeek. Choreographic assistance by Renato Arismendi; choreographic collaboration by Alexandra Brenk. Set design by Emma Ryott; dramaturgy by Dunja Funke; lighting by Reinhard Traub. Produced and directed for TV by Nikolai Vialkowitsch at Theaterhaus Stuttgart. The back cover shown above (provided early to the vendors by EuroArts) says nothing about 3D; the back cover on the disc we bought correctly states that the disc will play in 2D or 3D. The vendors' back cover art also says the sound is in stereo only. The back cover of our disc correctly states that the sound is in PCM stereo and 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio. Grade for both 2D and 3D: D+

This is an "experimental" dance production with onstage video and spoken elements; it earned a "Der Faust" theater prize in Germany. Spuck's choreography and the performance of Eric Gautier and his group would probably justify a "B" or "B+"grade. The interesting recorded music is fine for a contemporary dance title. The subtitles for the spoken parts of the ballet are helpful. Still, because the video is so dark, this is perhaps the weakest of the ballet/dance HDVDs I have reviewed. Since PQ is the issue, let's jump directly into screenshots.

The show opens with the full-stage shot below. Because this is a true-crime story about depraved people in ancient Rome, the artistic decision was made to present this with minimal lighting and drab costumes. The lighting was probably just high enough for the live audience to accept it. In the background you see a large picture of a poppy. The large on-stage video screen will show you live video images made on the stage with a tiny camera. The story of Nero and Poppea is complicated. So the choreographer provides a mistress of ceremonies who introduces the characters, assigns them numbers, and tells you what crimes they will commit for your enjoyment:

An image from the on-stage video camera can also show up in the Blu-ray video in a way the live audience will not see. Below note two dancers, the cameraman, and a blended Blu-ray image provided by post-production processing:

Here's a  close-up of the mistress of ceremonies. She speaks in a combination of French and German to introduce 6 main characters. Fortunately, the English subtitles are good. Additional other dancers appear on stage who are, I guess, just Romans:

As soon as Poppea is introduced, we get a close-up of her. Now you can see clearly the on-stage camera that she is peering into:

Here the philosopher Seneca is introduced and comes to center stage. The image on the HT display is almost as bad as what you see now on your PC. You can't tell if it's a man or a manikin standing there:

Here is a near full-stage shot of the dancers after they are all introduced. According to the keepcase booklet, two cameramen  (Andreas Tonndorf and Michael Gsell) were employed to make this. The stage is rather large, so one cameraman has to spend some time back with the audience to make large-scale shots. But then his video gear will not, because of the low light, be able to get HD images. Otherwise, the cameramen go for close-ups seeking better shots. Most of the images here are close-ups---this review suggests the full video looks better than it actually is:

So what should a dance video look like in HDVD? Here's a shot from the Alonzo King Scheherazade video. King heads a community-scale dance company in San Francisco. But somehow he managed to get videographer Andreas Morell and 4 cameramen for his project. King provide a blacked-out studio where Morell set up his own railroad and got the light he wanted where he needed it:

This is a night shot from Juliet and Romeo produced by the Swedish Opera Ballet (7 cameramen):

And this is from The Great Mass by the Leipziger Ballet  (8 cameramen):

Now we are back to the sad reality of the Poppea // Poppea video. Here's a pas de deux for Nero and Poppea:

Ottone was Poppea's lover before she took up with Nero. Here he tries to get her back:


Next are 6 interesting ensemble shots (in the last shot, all the dancers are screaming):


Mixed in with the good dancing is some silly stuff like dancers swimming underwater. I think (not sure) that this was projected on the on-stage video screen for the live audience. Note the pillar-box format:


Two talents:

This might be the best shot I have from the whole EuroArts video. Ottone tries (and fails), while disguised as a woman, to kill Poppea:

Ottavia, the Empress, knowing she will be killed by Nero and replaced by Poppea, retreats:

Poppea triumphs. Nero banishes Ottone and Drusilia:

The coronation of Poppea as the new Empress:


I think 3D is dead in fine-art productions except for ballet and dance, where the benefits can possibly outweigh the trouble involved in watching 3D. Current 3D Blu-ray titles are darker than their 2D ancestors.  The 2D Poppea // Poppea is way too dark, and the 3D is yet darker. But strangely, I found the 3D version slightly less painful to watch than the 2D version. Somehow, the additional 3D information outweighs the increased darkness.

Also strangely, I found the 2D version of Poppea // Poppea looked slightly better on my PC than on either of my Blu-ray equipped TV displays. My final comment would be question the accuracy of the artwork on the  EuroArts keepcase package and in the booklet, where the photos are so bright, colorful, and sharp. Are these pictures just puffing? Or are they a kind of mild consumer fraud?

I doubt many people would want to spend time and money watching this show in a HT except for special reasons. This results in a "D" grade under our standards. This is sad, but the moral is clear: if you want to have an acceptable HDVD of a dance show, you have to drum up the money to hire the techs to shoot the film right and budget for your techs to have the lighting and access to the show that they need. I add a "+" to the "D" grade because the content here is pretty good if you can stomach the video.