The Brent Walker Iolanthe (1982)
Ambrosian Opera Chorus
This video is part of the Brent Walker series that was shown on PBS in the United States in the mid-1980s. As producer Judith de Paul and her company traversed the canon, the tendency was to get more cute with the technology. That was what happened in this Iolanthe, which features numerous scene changes in the first act that get in the way of dramatic continuity. Later in the opera, the director splices in ersatz newsreel footage showing Strephon meeting with the Queen, giving political speeches, and so on. When all the video trickery is stripped away, what remains is only a fair account of the opera.
Phil Sternenberg wrote:
Although I believe I'm in a minority, one of my favorites is the Brent Walker Iolanthe. I first caught it in 1982 during the final week of existence of CBS Cable, when it aired with the other BW videos produced up to that time: Pinafore, Pirates, Mikado, and Gondoliers. I found the others so comparatively inferior that Iolanthe stood well above them. Here are some points in its favor:
- There is no celebrity casting.
- It's 100% complete aside from an abbreviated overture.
- There is an old DCOC lead: Pamela Field, although she was Leila instead of the Phyllis she had played and recorded.
- It makes the most of the medium for which it was produced. Iolanthe has a supernatural setting, and despite the ingenuity that has been present in some live stage productions, only video techniques can approximate the full extent of the magic the story suggests. We actually see Strephon make himself invisible down to the waist. One of my favorite touches is when, in the scene before the Act I Finale, Strephon decides to drown himself, only to be pulled out of the water with nothing more than the wave of a wand by his mother, who materializes out of nothingness. The newsreel scene at the end of Act I is odd, but when one considers how the men's and women's lyrics clash with each other anyway, there isn't all that much from which to be distracted. I still got a laugh out of it the first time I saw it.
|1982||Brent Walker Productions||VHS PAL||[unnumbered]|
|1991||BraveWorld Video||VHS PAL||STV 2047|
|1994||Polygram Video||VHS PAL||6325103|
|1996||Opera World||VHS NTSC||IOL10V|
|1999||Roadshow (Aust./NZ)||VHS PAL||102027|
|2002||Acorn Media||DVD||AMP-8536||Available only in a 10-disc boxed set (cat. AMP-5483) including the entire Brent Walker series, excepting Trial and Cox and Box.|