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Image Entertainment presents
The Love for Three Oranges (1989)

"I'm in love! I'm in love with the three oranges! I must have the three oranges!"
- The Prince (Jean-Luc Viala)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 06, 2000

Stars: Gabriel Bacquier, Jean-Luc Viola
Other Stars: Helene Perrguin, Vincent LeTexier, Georges Gautier, Didier Henry
Director: Louis Erlo

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:44m:52s
Release Date: August 22, 2000
UPC: 014381579628
Genre: classical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-B+B+ D-

DVD Review

Sergei Prokofiev's 1919 opera, The Love for Three Oranges, makes its way to DVD with this intriguing disc. The opera is an absurdist fairy tale of sorts, complete with princes and princesses, palace intrigue, sorcerers, witches and curses. At the same time, Prokofiev has fun with the very staging of opera and the clichés and standards of the art form.

The central story revolves around an unnamed prince (apparently the Prince of Clubs, since he is son of the King of Clubs, but he is never referred to by any name other than 'prince'). The prince, amusingly played by Jean-Luc Viala, at first suffers from hypochondria so severe it prevents him from doing anything. The King (Gabriel Baquier) appropriately frets over this, since it endangers the state. However, his niece, Princess Clarissa (Helene Perrguin) sees this as an opportunity to seize the throne for herself and her lover, the treacherous Leandro (Vincent LeTexier). The doctors declare that the only thing that can save the prince is laughter, so the King orders festivities to begin to try to make the reluctant prince laugh. He does not do so until he sights a witch, Fata Morgana (Michele Lagrange), and unwisely breaks into laughter at her. She wallops the prince with a most original curse: he will fall in love with three oranges, which happen to be in the kitchen of another sorceress, guarded by her giantess cook. Things go from bad to worse for the prince from there.

At the same time, the chorus is divided into two halves, each representing a faction of opera-lovers. One wants serious tragedy, and the other wants light comedy, and they alternately bicker with each other and the actors, trying to get the show to move their way. At one point they even begin to take part in the action to resolve the story differently. This device makes it clear that Prokofiev is not aiming for another Magic Flute here; he's not-so-gently sending up the entire notion of opera and bursting its self-important balloons.

The staging is minimalist to the point of ridiculousness; a series of blank flats serves as the background, occasionally moving aside to act as a doorway when needed. This helps highlight the ridiculousness of the action by contrasting with the often-ornate costumes. Several modern notes are struck as well—the prince in his suspendered white pants and shirt with black bowler looks like Dim, Alex's droog from A Clockwork Orange, nicely echoing his generally dimwitted behavior throughout the piece.

The cast and orchestra are all quite capable and acquit themselves admirably in this production. Particularly noteworthy is the brief appearance of Jules Bastin, a large basso as the giantess cook; he is a hilarious highlight of the casting. Georges Gautier as Truffaldino, the servant responsible for everything, gives a good performance, ranging from the weary factotum to the snide follower to the complete coward at the end.An entertaining production that is definitely worth a look.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic image is not as clear and sharp as I'd like to see; edges are somewhat soft and fuzzy. There are also occasional problems with aliasing. Colors in general are quite good, although a rather muted palette is utilized. Blacks are also good, but not outstanding, as is typical for stage lighting. Overall, however, the picture is quite acceptable.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: The only audio is a DD 2.0 stereo track in the original French. The vocals all come through clearly and without distortion, but the orchestra occasionally sounds rather thin and weak. However, the famous march from the opera (which is played several times) comes through with gusto and clarity.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 35 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 33 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Other than generous chaptering and yellow English subtitling, there's nothing else here. Besides the short blurb on the back cover, there's no synopsis, no production notes, nothing. We don't even get the names of the songs in the original French, nor subtitling in French. Very disappointing.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

An entertaining performance of an opera a little outside the usual repertoire. The staging nicely helps emphasize the satirical nature of Prokofiev's work. A very good cast makes this a quite enjoyable, and often quite humorous, experience. Recommended, although the near-complete lack of extras suggests trying it out with a rental first.


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