ALBUM TITLE: Glass
PERFORMER: Stuttgart Opera/DR Davies; dir. Freyer
CATALOGUE NO: 100 136
This latest crop of DVDs is a mixed bunch, though with the emphasis on Verdi. Predictably, these tend towards the opera dramatico genre, especially Luca Ronconi’s MACBETH. His staging is very traditional; grand sets, costumes and gestures of the old school are abundant. Certainly Macbeth is a dark piece, but the lighting should have received attention for filmic purposes. I was well into the first scene before I realised the witches had
beards. Renato Bruson makes a decent Macbeth and Mara Zampieri performs Lady Macbeth wide-eyed and maniacal, but vocally she sometimes struggles. James Morris sings impressively as Banquo, though Giuseppe Sinopoli’s tempi are too erratic. A blacked-up Jon Vickers heads the cast of OTELLO conducted and directed by Herbert von Karajan. Visually this is pleasing, although one is constantly reminded of the studio location. Similar to old Thirties films, this inexplicably tends to make the cast look plastic, especially Mirella Freni, who looks almost doll-like. Despite this, her singing is hauntingly beautiful. RICOLETTO is
filmed on location and captures the essence of Renaissance Italy sublimely. Swirly mist rising from darkened canals and cloaked figures in dimly-lit alleyways certainly heighten the power of the piece. A young Pavarotti, who effortlessly sings the Duke of Mantua, even climbs a tree. This is Jean-Pierre Ponnelle at his best. His Rigoletto, Ingvar Wixell, is touching in his portrayal and sings the role with aplomb. Edita Gruberova is a sensational Gilda and Chailly and the Vienna Philharmonic are on cracking form. Richard Eyre’s direction of TRAVIATA has more fluidity, enhanced by Solti’s superb conducting and Bob Crowley’s glorious sets and costumes. The thrill of having Angela Gheorghiu in one’s sitting-room is not to be missed both vocally and dramatically.
The two FLEDERMAUSes are very different from each other. The combination of Otto Schenk and Carlos Kleiber captures the style and wit of Viennese joie de vivre to a T Eberhard Wachter’s unique comic timing is a treat and a rarity for Eisenstein. One can therefore forgive the occasional vocal slip. Both Brigitte Fassbaender as Orlofsky and Wolfgang Brendel as Falke are luxury casting and Pamela Coburn and Janet Perry are delightful. Despite having a classy cast and guests including Pavarotti and Marilyn Home, the same can’t be said of John Cox’s Fledermaus, which is uncharacteristically hammy. Similarly, the over-exaggerated gleefulness of Helmut Loh net’s LA BELLE HELEKE from Zurich tends to make one’s palms sweat, but to be fair, such tendency is inherent in both Strauss’s and Offenbach’s scores.
CECILIA & BRVN AT CLYNDEBOURNE, considering it’s a mere concert, is a pleasure. Bartoli and Terfel bounce off each other and their rendition of Mozart’s ‘La ci darem la mano’ is undeniably sensual. This is beautifully and intelligently shot by Brian Large.
Philip Glass’s SATYACRAHA directed by Achim Freyer needs dedication to watch right through. However, Freyer’s mesmerising and ethereal production matches Glass’s orchestral sound and to this extent it is bewitching.
ROSENKAVALIER from Vienna marks another triumphant partnership between Carlos Kleiber and Otto Schenk. This is an illustrious piece of music theatre, made all the more vivid by DVD’s ability to catch the detail. The relationship between the Marschallin and Octavian is both sexy and moving and with Felicity Lott and Anne Sofie von Otter the roles could not be better cast; Barbara Bonney is a delectable Sophie. A DVD not to be missed. Louise Flind