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Meeting Venus Reviews

Splendidly directed by Istvan Szabo, who co-wrote the screenplay with Michael Hirst, and lavishly photographed by Lajos Koltai, MEETING VENUS utilizes the petty squabbling that lies behind a major opera company's efforts to stage Tannhauser as a metaphor for contemporary Europe. Zoltan Szanto (Niels Arestrup), a virtually unknown Hungarian conductor, receives his big break when he's engaged to conduct Wagner's Tannhauser at the Opera Europa in Paris. What's more, the production will be broadcast by satellite to 27 countries around the world, assuring Szanto overnight celebrity. Heading a stellar international cast is the prima donna Karin Anderson (Glenn Close). A superstar in every sense, she isn't particularly happy about working with Szanto, having vaguely recalled a disparaging remark he made against her. Things do not begin well in Szanto's preparations for rehearsals, despite his dream of creating a blend of singers, musicians, dancers and stagehands united under his baton. It seems that music is next to the last thing on everyone's mind. Management bickers for position and power; the set designer has created a post-modernist nightmare; the dancers' union calls a strike; the singers squabble over petty jealousies; the chorus is determined to gain advantage from the chaos; Szanto can't even collect living expenses or his conducting fee; and as a final straw, environmental action groups are arranging to picket the opera house. And on top of all this turmoil, there remains the ice barrier between the diva and the conductor. Then, quite miraculously, a love affair develops between Szanto and Anderson and it turns life upside down because, all of a sudden, they can and do laugh and cavort. MEETING VENUS, with its robust, often comedic interplay and delicious love story, is an exciting and gratifying film. The music is superbly sung by a stellar cast. Close is radiantly luminous as Karin. Her arias are sung by Kiri Te Kanawa and the synchronization is flawless. As for Arestrup, his magnetic aura that infatuate everyone.