ALBUM TITLE: Korngold
WORKS: Die tote Stadt
PERFORMER: Torsten Kerl, Angela Denoke.Yuri Batunok; Strasbourg PO/Jan Latham-Koenig; dir. Inga Levant (Strasbourg Opera National du Rhin,200l)
CATALOGUE NO: 100 342
Until we in Britain get our first staging of Korngold’s most successful opera, this DVD of last year’s French premiere will have to suffice, warts and all. The plot of a bereaved man’s obsessive fantasy offers plenty of scope for directorial interpretation, and Inga Levant lets her imagination run riot, taking Korngold’s Hollywood connection as a cue to allude to as many films as she can. Marietta stands over an air vent a la Monroe; Paul keeps the clothed skeleton of his dead wife in a cupboard in true Hammer Horror style; and the Act II theatrical troupe puts up a poster for Robert the Devil ‘starring Errol Flynn and Bette Davis’ for its Meyerbeer rehearsal. The result is a juvenile mish-mash of visual distractions that does nothing to illuminate the drama.
Musically, though, it has its strengths, and in Torsten Kerl a tenor who can cope both with Paul’s vocal challenges and the role’s psychological free-fall. As Marietta, Angela Denoke does not always make the most beautiful of sounds, but her dramatic conviction is never in doubt. There’s a fine cameo from Stephan Genz as Fritz (accompanied by a chorus of nuns decked in the Stars and Stripes…) and the Strasbourg Philharmonic plays magnificently for Jan Latham-Koenig.
Although it offers no extras, this release at least makes good use of DVD’s audio capabilities, directing the singing through the central ‘set-top’ channel in surround sound; the camerawork is excellent. Matthew Rye