Jedermann

The disc release (Blu-ray and DVD) of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Jedermann is actually a 2 for 1.  There’s a recording of a performance of the play from the 2020 Salzburg festival plus a 54 minute “docufiction” film about the history of the festival.

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Lyrical Walküre

The thing that struck me most about the Royal Opera House’s 2018 recording of Wagner’s Die Walküre is how lyrical it is.  It’s not without excitement in the appropriate places, far from it, but there’s such lovely singing.  Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde is tender and poetic and the combo of Stuart Skelton and Emily Magee as the twin lovers is really good.  Throw in a nuanced Wotan from John Lundgren and a typically elegant performance from Sarah Connolly as Fricka and it’s really a pleasure to listen to.  Ain Anger is not so lyrical as Hunding but it’s a fine menacing performance.  Antonio Pappano and the house orchestra are equally fine.

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Mathis der Maler

My guess is that Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler is an opera most opera amateurs have heard of but which comparatively few have actually seen.  The video release of a 2012 production at Theater an der Wien directed by Keith Warner is therefore very welcome.

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The Snow Maiden

Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden is a rather odd opera.  It’s set in some sort of idyllic pre-Christian Russia where the tsar is approachable, just and benevolent and the people spend most of their time drinking and having sex.  Into this world comes Snow Maiden, the fifteen year old daughter of Winter and Spring.  Her parents have various things to do and so decide to park the girl with the local peasantry.  Various romantic complications ensue involving a rather nasty, rich merchant Mizguir and the mysterious Lel, who may be a shepherd but likely isn’t mortal either.  The mating behaviour of the locals confuses Snow Maiden as she is incapable of falling in love.  Eventually Spring grants her that faculty and she gives herself to Mizguir, while really wanting Lel, but the rays of the sun on the first day of summer melt her. The natives ignore her death and get on with singing and dancing.

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The other Bluebeard

I guess many opera goers in the English speaking world will have at least a passing acquaintance with Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle but I suspect fewer will have seen Offenbach’s take on Perreault’s rather grim tale.  It will probably come as no great surprise that Offenbach’s Barbe-bleue is a somewhat tongue in cheek version of the story of the notorious serial killer.

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Castorf’s weird From the House of the Dead

It’s not often that I’m completely baffled by an opera production but Frank Castorf’s 2018 production of Janáček’s From the House of the Dead (Z Mrtvého Domu) at the Bayerische Staatsoper comes pretty close.  Since I really can’t explain what’s going on I’ll try to describe the various elements.

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Psychological Elektra

Strauss’ Elektra, for all its “grand” music, is essentially a rather intimate psychological study of the psyches and relationships of three women.  Given this, one might think that the enormous stage of the Felsenreitschule in Salzburg a very odd choice of venue.  Krzysztof Warlikowski’s approach to the challenge is bold but almost impossible to do justice to on video.  Despite that, what does come across on video is a rather compelling version of the work.

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The other ROH La Bohème


A couple of week’s ago I reviewed the recording of the 2020 revival of Richard Jones’ production of La Bohème at Covent Garden.  I said in that review that I wanted to get hold of the original first run recording, which I have done, albeit on DVD rather than Blu-ray.   Comparing them was really very interesting.

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Euryanthe

Weber’s 1823 “Grand-heroic opera” Euryanthe doesn’t get performed very often.  It’s not hard to see why even though Christof Loy’s production for the Theater an der Wien filmed in 2018 has some interesting features.

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Carmen at the Opéra comique

Bizet’s Carmen premiered at the Opéra Comique in Paris in 1875.  In 2009 it was revived there in a production by Adrian Noble.  That production was filmed for TV and has now been released on disk.  Having watched it I’m asking myself whether it’s an attempt in some way to “recreate” something similar to the 1875 experience.  Alas, there’s nothing in the documentation to help with this question either way but two things intrigued me. The Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique is in the pit which suggests an attempt to get a “period sound”.  Secondly, the spoken dialogue is not the version I’m accustomed to and there’s quite a bit more of it.  Is this, perhaps, the original 1875 dialogue?

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