LABELS: Bel Air Classiques
ALBUM TITLE: Hindemith
PERFORMER: Alan Held, Angela Denoke, Christopher Ventris, Hannah Esther Minutillo; Orchestre et Choeurs de l’Opéra National de Paris/Kent Nagano;
dir. André Engel (Paris, 2005)
CATALOGUE NO: BAC 023 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)
Hindemith’s first full-length opera, premiered in 1926 and based on a tale of Hoffmann (Das Fräulein von Scuderi), is set in Paris. This offers the cue for some wonderful Parisian vistas in the designs of Nicky Rieti for André Engel’s lavish staging, filmed at the Opéra Bastille two
years ago. Yet however much this team may think we need distracting from the rigours of Hindemith, we also need to understand the motivation of those characters who emerge with little trace of creepiness in Engel’s interpretation. After all, Cardillac is a goldsmith so obsessed with the beauty of his creations that he resorts to killing his customers to repossess those treasures from which he cannot bear to be parted.
Hindemith himself may be partly to blame, because he employs the distancing device of giving all the characters except Cardillac generic names: is it possible to feel much for a Daughter, Officer and others? Alan Held uses his muscular baritone well in the title role; Angela Denoke sings the Daughter beautifully. Christopher Ventris brings heft to the Officer, and Charles Workman (Cavalier) and Hannah Esther Minutillo (Lady) are as convincing as their roles allow.
There are episodes in the contrapuntal score that seem to have little bearing on the action, but it is good to hear this music controlled with the focus that Kent Nagano’s conducting supplies. Artsy filming and a long, uninteresting extra feature do little to help the opera’s cause.John Allison