Britten: A film by Petr Weigl

COMPOSERS: Britten
LABELS: Arthaus
ALBUM TITLE: Britten: Let’s Make an Opera
WORKS: A film by Petr Weigl
PERFORMER: Lisa Milne, Felicity Palmer; Coull Quartet; City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and Symphony Youth Chorus/Simon Halsey
CATALOGUE NO: Arthaus 102 107 (NTSC system; PCM stereo; 4:3 picture ratio)
‘Derected by Peter Wiegl’ [sic]. That just about says it all. If you are looking for Britten’s charming children’s opera, steer clear of this. Before you’ve even got near the work you will have had to endure half an hour of nudge-nudge wink-wink innuendo and ‘whoopsy daisy-I’vejust-tripped-over-a-hat-box-andfallen-in-the-swimming-pool’ slapstick. This, according to the minimal notes, is all in aid of setting the scene and introducing us to characters in the audience. The ‘scene’, it would appear, is a faded Hapsburg spa town where everyone wears false moustaches, tight bodices and hams it up. There’s something more than cheap and nasty about the bosomy girls and preening male swimmers:the sexual note of West End farce undermines the delightful simplicity of the Little Sweep itself.

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Even here there seems to be a complete disjunction between the worthy CBSO Chorus, its wavering Youth Chorus, the Coull Quartet, singers of the stature of Felicity Palmer and Lisa Milne and the production itself, with its Czech actors badly dubbed and directed with all the sophistication of The Archer’s Christmas panto. It says a lot about today’s state of art music film-making that no fewer than four partners were needed to fund this film, and that such a ghastly mishmash was the result. Helen Wallace