COMPOSERS: Richard Strauss
ALBUM TITLE: R Strauss
WORKS: Die Liebe der Danae (DVD)
PERFORMER: Krassimira Stoyanova, Tomasz Konieczny, Norbert Ernst, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, Regine Hangler, Gerhard Siegel, Mária Celeng, Olga Bezsmertna, Michaela Selinger, Jennifer Johnston; Vienna Philharmonic, Concert Association, Vienna State Opera Choir/Franz Welser-Möst; dir. Alvis Hermanis (Salzburg, 2016)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 8024297028; Blu-ray: 8024297024
Salzburg’s grotesque obsession with design over direction reached its apogee with this second production by Latvian Alvis Hermanis. I found myself shocked by the vacuous nature of his response to Strauss’s ‘cheerful mythology’, based on an idea left behind by the long-dead Hofmannsthal and planned as his operatic farewell (the end actually came with the connoisseur’s piece Capriccio, more popular now than Strauss can have imagined).
There’s room for imaginative personenregie, the relations between singers, in the conflated mythic characters – Danae, shut up in a tower and impregnated by Jupiter in a shower of gold, and greedy Midas – to point up the love-versus-power theme of the Ring. Any acting potential in Hermanis’s cast is squashed in favour of purely decorative – and expensive – visuals, plus a hint of his declared anti-Islamism in the third act’s vision of repressed burka-ed women at their looms.
Musically the saving grace is Krassimira Stoyanova, well up to the challenges of a hugely demanding Strauss soprano role. Jupiter, Tomasz Konieczny, and strenuous Midas, a miscast Gerhard Siegel, struggle to make an impact. Franz Welser-Möst’s conducting ignores the expansive generosity of Strauss’s glorious score. If only this had been a Christof Loy-Christian Thielemann collaboration, it might have been watchable. As it is, revisiting this awful production felt like a real penance.