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


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Convinced that the ghost knew what he was talking about, Hamlet is all but convinced he should murder the royal pair. First, though, he must soliloquise about his own existence. 'Être ou ne pas être' may be clear enough to those who have progressed little beyond the pens of their aunts. To make doubly sure, Thomas sensibly repeats the line [listen -- 'Être ou ne pas être' (Act 3) -- DVD2 chapter 2, 0:01-1:37]. There then follows a scene of mounting dramatic power, as Hamlet confronts his mother with her guilt. She begins in genuine emotional torment [listen -- 'Hamlet, ma douleur est immense!' (Act 3) -- DVD2 chapter 5, 0:00-2:11]. But Hamlet's increasing fury means the ghost must intervene to rescue her.

Béatrice Uria-Monzon (Gertrude) and Simon Keenlyside (Hamlet) in Act 3. DVD screenshot © Fundacio del Gran Teatre del Liceu
Béatrice Uria-Monzon (Gertrude) and Simon Keenlyside (Hamlet) in Act 3. DVD screenshot © Fundacio del Gran Teatre del Liceu

It remains for Ophelia to go mad. This she does, not with the traditional flute in waiting, but by the aid of a clarinet. There are, however, trills and coloratura enough to indicate she has taken leave of her wits. The most touching section is an endearing 'Waltz of the Flowers' [watch -- 'Partagez-vous mes fleurs!' (Act 4) -- DVD2 chapter 9, 0:00-1:31]. With Ophelia drowned, the opera makes much of her funeral and burial. The two gravediggers perform their sombre task, though without poor Yorick's skull, alas. The dénouement is swift and effectively stage-managed by the ghost. 'Long live King Hamlet' gives the fine chorus and orchestra under Bertrand de Billy a last chance to display their brilliance after much sensitivity.

Copyright © 19 October 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


Hamlet - Ambroise Thomas

5 99447 9 2xDVD9 NTSC 16:9 Region-free Linear PCM Stereo/Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround/DTS Surround NEW RELEASE 176' 2004 Fundació del Gran Theatre del Liceu, under licence to EMI Records Ltd

Simon Keenlyside, baritone (Hamlet, prince of Denmark); Béatrice Uria-Monzon, mezzo (Gertrude, queen of Denmark and mother of Hamlet); Natalie Dessay, soprano (Ophélie, daughter of Polonius); Alain Vernhes, bass (Claudius, king of Denmark); Daniil Shtoda, tenor (Laërte, son of Polonius); Markus Hollop, bass (ghost, father of Hamlet); Gustavo Peña, tenor (Marcellus, an officer); Lluis Sintes, bass (Horatio, friend of Hamlet); Celestino Varela, bass (Polonius); Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Gran Theatre del Liceu; Bertrand de Billy, musical director; Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, stage directors; Jean-Michel Criqui, revival director; Toni Bargalló, video director

Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896): Hamlet (Opera in 5 acts, 1868, with libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, after Shakespeare). Recorded live at the Gran Theatre del Liceu, Barcelona, October 2003


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