Arabella with Fleming and Hampson

Thomas Hampson and Renée Fleming teamed up for Strauss’ Arabella at the 2014 Salzburg Osterfestspiel.  The production is directed by Florentine Klepper and it’s set late 19th/early 20th century and is conventional in many ways though there are a few interesting touches.  There may be more than a few but video director Brian Large focusses quite relentlessly on the singers 99% of the time so it’s hard to tell.  I noticed a few things.  The hotel set in Act 1 is multi-room but it’s very rare that we see other than the room the principal action is in so who knows what might have been going on.  There’s a use of body doubles during the Act 2 duet to create a sort of “portrait” of Mandryka and Arabella that broods over the stage for the rest of the act.  The fortune teller reappears with the “trouble” card during the “key” scene.  The whole Fiakermilli episode is difficult to interpret because the video gives such a fragmentary view of it.  There’s certainly a couple of suggestive giant dolls.  Otherwise this scene just comes off as pretty crude and lame.  I suspect that there may be much going on here that isn’t on the video.  This all tends to reinforce the weaknesses of the second half of Act 2 and the start of Act 3 which certainly are not Strauss and von Hofmannsthal’s best work.

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Der Freischütz in Dresden

At first blush Axel Köhler’s 2015 production of Weber’s Der Freischütz for Dresden’s Semperoper seems entirely traditional but as it unfolds it reveals some real depth that pretty much restores the sense of horror that the original audience felt.  It’s set in an indeterminate time period in the aftermath of war.  The first act looks quite conventional but there’s a very tense air to it with both sexuality and violence just below, and occasionally above, the surface.  The atmosphere is greatly enhanced by our first look at Georg Zeppenfeld who is a very fine and rather plastic Kaspar.  There are echoes here of his König Heinrich in Bayreuth.

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