Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller

 

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But then comes the ghost. I can never have enough of such apparitions, and rejoice unreservedly that the spectre of Hamlet's father (Markus Hollop) appears not only on the ramparts but also in Gertrude's closet when Hamlet is minded to do away with her, and at the very end of the opera when, in this production by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, he grabs Claudius from behind so that Hamlet can be given an easy target for his dagger. Thomas makes his first manifestation in colloquy with Hamlet both eerie and impressive [listen -- 'Viendra-t'il' (Act 1) -- DVD1 chapter 9, 4:27-5:55].

Markus Hollop (The Ghost, top) and Simon Keenlyside (Hamlet) in Act 1. DVD screenshot © Fundacio del Gran Teatre del Liceu
Markus Hollop (The Ghost, top) and Simon Keenlyside (Hamlet) in Act 1. DVD screenshot © Fundacio del Gran Teatre del Liceu

Hamlet's apparent derangement affects initially the women. Ophelia feels rejected, and Gertrude (Béatrice Uria-Monzon) wonders uneasily if Hamlet suspects how his father met his end. Hamlet retains common sense enough for a drinking song in the best operatic manner and then presides over the play within a play that deals with the death of King Gonzago. The librettists managed this with utmost cunning. The actors mime the drama, and Hamlet comments on the action with increasing urgency. The effect on Alain Vernhes as Claudius is exactly as Hamlet desired. Guiltily outraged, he angrily stops the performance [watch -- 'Ô mortelle offense!' (Act 2) -- DVD1 chapter 17, 0:00-1:17].

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Copyright © 19 October 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK

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