LABELS: Medici Arts
PERFORMER: Waltraud Meier, Peter Seiffert, Carsten Stabell, Juha Uusitalo; Choir of Generalitat Valenciana; Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana/Zubin Mehta; dir. Pier’Alli (Valencia, 2006)
CATALOGUE NO: 2072498 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)
This recording features the opening performances given in the spectacular Palau de les Arts in Valencia, a building which looks like a cross between the Sage Gateshead and the Sydney Opera House, and of which I would like to see far more. Royalty is present. The cast is probably all round the best assembled for a production of Beethoven’s great work for many years.
The production, by Pier’Alli, is straightforward, though the setting, on a vast scale, is sometimes hard to work out – is this a video effect or what the audience saw? Its main motif, from Marzelline’s ironing board onwards, is of instruments of torture – a museum’s worth of them.
The largely veteran cast give their all, with Matti Salminen receiving the warmest applause for his rounded performance as Rocco. Peter Seiffert is an implausibly well-fed Florestan, but sings and acts excellently.
Juha Uusitalo is the youthful villain Pizarro, strong of voice, if odd of accent. The two young non-lovers are traditional and charming. At the centre is the arch-professional Waltraud Meier, who acts and sings with immense conviction but looks entirely womanly. He is
in powerful but unbeautiful voice.
Still, all told and some quirks apart, what we see and hear from the stage is moving and wonderfully committed. I can’t say the same of Zubin Mehta, who conducts with the glib efficiency he brings to everything, and fails to get the best out of the orchestra: the introduction to Act II is tame stuff. But the sense of occasion is palpable, and I was enthralled. Michael Tanner