Jonathan Miller’s indelible DVDs

I found this list that I made a decade ago:

Jonathan Miller’s indispensables on DVD:

1 The signature ENO Rigoletto (1983)

2 Maggio Musicale production of Marriage of Figaro (2005)

3 Laurence Olivier’s Merchant of Venice (1974)

4 The Beggar’s Opera with Roger Daltry (1983)

5 Michael Hordern as King Lear (1988, BBC)

6 Beyond the Fringe (1964)

 

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  • His Cosí In St. Louis, c. 1982, with a brilliant young cast of future stars, beautifully conducted by the late and lamented Calvin Simmons, was one of the finest and most perfect opera productions I saw in my life. It was one of the few times that the direction of an opera was so musical as to illuminate the score. Unforgettable.

  • The Fanciulla del West starring Mara Zampieri and Placido Domingo is wonderful – from La Scala, to be vastly preferred over the Met production that has overstayed its welcome.

    His productions of Kat’a Kabanova and Pelleas et Melisande at the Met need representation on dvd, with casting and conducting to do these two works justice. His Nozze di Figaro from the Met, with probably the most beautiful lighting of any Mozart opera I’ve witnessed yet, even if not with a great cast (and should have used Barbara Bonney for the PBS telecast instead of Bartoli) still emerged as fully transformed by the highly enlightened production and conducting of James Levine. The current Richard Eyre production at the Met is an eyesore and which provides no compensating insight at all.

    I wonder if the Tosca from Firenze, starring Josephine Barstow carried any merit to it – a flawed production – but had to have gone a little better than it did in Houston in 1991 with a wobbly Eva Marton and totally inept tenor. At least, I hope it would have.

    Long Day’s Journey Into Night is certainly worth seeing again as well. Miller’s lectures at Shepherd School at Rice University in late 1996 are also an event I’ll remember for some time to come. This is somebody who will and should be sorely missed. At his very best, his highly nuanced and in a way irreverent, post-modern way of looking at the art form was such that it not only commnted on it so well, but upon the world, a few misfires of his apart, in which we live.

  • totally agree re king Lear….truly great, not least because of Anton Lesser’s Edgar (with stigmata) and genius casting of his old friend (and Boulez fan) John Bird as Albany. In the days before big tellies Miller realised that he should produce tablaeux scenes like paintings with black and white tones, bleeding out the colour to greqt effect.

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