Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The best Henry V for the home theatre

The last three plays in Shakespeare's Tetralogy, Henry IV, parts I & II, and Henry V, are a bit like a Three Card Monte game. Who are we watching for? Pay close attention to Sir John Falstaff. How could we not, when he was played so superbly by Antony Sher in the first two plays? I was bowled over by this performance, and by Sher's amazing book The Year of the Fat Knight which chronicles his role. But pay too much attention to Falstaff and you'll miss the amazing character arc of Prince Hal becoming King Henry, who is marvellously portrayed by the another superb actor and comedian, Alex Hassell. Watch King Henry, as he builds his character and leadership skills, coming to a climax in the great St. Crispin Day speech. What a character; what a fine performance! But wait - where is Sir John?

Alas, he's gone, leaving a Sir John-shaped hole and some very good memories. Shakespeare has let the Falstaff card fall from the table. But in this presentation of Henry V director Gregory Doran and his awesome cast work hard to fill that hole and move the action across to France and world events. Bardolph is back, played again by Joshua Richards, as is Pistol (Antony Byrne), along with Mistress Quickly (Sarah Parks, who replaces Paola Dionisotti), and they all get some room, away from Falstaff's shadow, to build comic rhythms and gain long and loud laughs from an appreciative Stratford-upon-Avon audience. Again, the talented actors in Doran's troupe often take multiple roles, and the stagecraft is of the highest order all around. The stage is set, to coin a phrase, for the patriotism and heroics on, or rather, just a bit to the side of, the battlefield. All this, plus Opus Arte's fine HD sound and picture and excellent video direction, makes this the best available Henry V for your home theatre.

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