This opera requires: 150 singers, four ondes Martenot (electronic keyboards) apart from the normal orchestra. It is in every sense monstrous: Messiaen´s only opera St Francoise d´Assise from 1983 is a 5 hour confession of faith (according to the composer), consisting of scenes of the life of St Francis of Assisi (parallelling the life of Jesus Christ). Not characterised by its outer action, it may perhaps approximate a staged oratorio with tableau's from St Francis´s life such as: The Cross, The Kissing of the Leper, The journeying Angel, The Stigmata, Death and The New Life.
Not unsurprisingly, this opera is rarely staged and the 2008 production from Amsterdam was something of an event, not unsurprisingly finding its way to a DVD.
An aesthetic, semi-abstract (as always I´d say) production by Pierre Audi is of great beauty with the orchestra placed in the middle of the stage (as he also did in this Ring) and Ingo Metzmacher´s dynamic, yet transparent reading of this massive score is nothing short of fabulous.
Rodney Gilfry, again a major accomplishment in the title role, with his semi-neurotic stage appearance accompanied by Camilla Tilling´s Angel.
As much as I love Messiaen, however, this is a long one to sit through, not least on DVD....