Death of 1000 Cuts
A sample article from the archives of the B.A.S. Speaker

by David B. Hadaway

Based on a friend's recommendation, I recently purchased the laserdisc set of Handel's Julius Caesar directed by Peter Sellars, who is known for updated and innovative staging of standard operatic masterpieces. Musically and sonically it is first-rate, with names that are familiar to New England concertgoers. The staging, based on a European theater production, is consistently inventive and entertaining, if a little weird (like all Sellars's work).

So what is wrong with this picture? Hyper kinetic camera work! No camera angle is allowed to last more than five seconds; many are only one second. It made me dizzy after a while. On side 5 band 2 there is a 14-minute aria (i.e., one person singing) with about 200 camera changes; I estimate the entire opera has 2000 cuts. It is certainly the antithesis of High Definition, with many shots including only the forehead to the chin. Closing my eyes only reminds me that in opera on video all voices are dead center-pure mono (the orchestra is in stereo).

This set along with many other cutout titles (on videotape as well) is available incredibly cheaply from Berkshire Records (413-243-4080). [Other good laser: Grieg, At the Cradle]



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updated 11/11/04