Dshamila Kaiser, Nadja Stefanoff, Will Hartmann, Markus Butter; Graz Opera Chorus; Graz Philharmonic/Roland Kluttig
Capriccio C5455 156:05 mins (2 discs)
With two much-admired DVD releases of this harrowing opera currently available, a new audio recording, drawn from performances by the Graz Opera in February 2021, might seem surplus to requirements. Yet the opportunity to focus solely on the music, undistracted by any idiosyncrasies that accompany a stage production, has actually enhanced my appreciation of Weinberg’s score. This is particularly the case with some of the flashback scenes in Act II that take place in Auschwitz. In the world premiere 2010 Bregenz Festival DVD (on Arthaus), the dramatic tension in these sections of the opera seemed to waver, partly as a result of the relatively static action on stage. But I didn’t sense the same problem in this recording which projects a greater lyrical poignancy, not least in the extended arias by Marta and Katja in Scene 6 which are beautifully sung here by Nadja Stefanoff and Tetyana Miyus.
Of course, there are other moments in Weinberg’s opera, such as the traumatic climax where Marta’s violinist fiancé Tadeusz is brutally attacked by SS guards for playing the Bach Chaconne instead of the demanded popular waltz, which cry out for visual representation. Yet once again, thanks to the strongly projected playing of the Grazer Philharmoniker under Roland Kluttig, the shattering impact of this scene is by no means undermined.
Capriccio’s engineers have done a fine job in securing a good balance between singers and orchestra, the only slight disappointment being the backwardly placed chorus whose words are not always audible.