Monday, 3 October 2011

DVD: Selma Jezkova (Dancer in the Dark)

DVD. Selma Jezkova. Prod: Kasper Holten, cond: Michael Schønwandt with the Royal Danish Orchestra. 2010. Cast: Ylva Kihlberg (Selma)

Poul Ruders adaptation of Dancer in the Dark was met with unaimously negative reviews from the Danish press after the 2010 world premiere. In fact, Dancer in the Dark - the opera is only loosely based on Dancer in the Dark - the move, and in fact Poul Ruders originally suggested the opera to be named Selma Jezkova. A proposition rightly vetoed by Intendant (and director) Kasper Holten for strategic purposes.
Indeed, Selma Jezkova is a very dark work. Where Björks singing occasionally lit up the movie, nothing lightens up the opera, where the story of Selma Jezkova, whose only desire is to save money to pay
for eye surgery for her son, comes to a tragic end. Poul Ruders score mixed the melodic with the abrupt, even incorporation a few musical-style elements.

I am more often than not, not crazy about modern opera, which I feel often fails to transmit emotions to the audience the way (some of) the 80-90+ year old works do. Equally with Ruders. The story is horrible. But I am not moved. It certainly is not the fault of Ylva Kihlberg, who has for long been my favourite soprano at the Royal Danish Opera. She gives everything she has to the character. I am not sure it is the fault of Kasper Holten either, rather realistically telling the Ruders story in 7 scenes and only 70 minutes.
Is it too short? Would it be more moving if we had more time to know the characters? Maybe. Or maybe opera is just not the optimal medium to tell a realistic story of a poor factory worker in the 21th century.

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average): 3

Ylva Kihlberg: 4
Kasper Holten: 3
Michael Schønwandt: 4

Overall impression: 2

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