Vera Nemirova’s production of Berg’s Lulu was recorded in the Haus für Mozart at Salzburg in 2010. It’s presented in the now conventional three act version completed by Friedrich Cerha. The sets are painterly, including in Act 1 a giant painting of the title character. Lighting is used to create a very distinct palette for each scene and the detailed direction of the actors is careful and effective. I didn’t see any big ideas but then on this video recording, if there had been any, they would likely have been lost in the incessant close ups and strange camera angles. One “trick” perhaps is that much of the action in Act 3 Scene 1 takes place in the auditorium with a fair bit of confusion as the actors hand out fake cash to the punters. This is, of course, the scene where the glitterati go broke so perhaps some irony is intended.
The 1987 recording of Berg’s Wozzeck from the Vienna State Opera is a bit of a mixed bag. Claudio Abbado’s reading of the score is incredibly intense and powerful and he gets great support from the orchestra, There’s also some very good singing. Dramatically it’s a bit of a mixed bag and the DVD production isn’t particularly good. Continue reading
Robert Carsen’s 2004 production of Der Rosenkavalier at the Salzburg Festival was apparently enormously controversial at the time. In many ways that says more about the iconic status of the piece in Salzburg tradition than about Carsen’s production. There are a few controversial elements. He has updated the period to 1914 and the third act is set in a brothel with a fair amount of nudity. Beyond that, the production is pretty faithful to the libretto and has, I think characteristic Carsen touches like long lines of tables and chairs and a certain geometric elegance. He seems to be using the sides of the stage to comment on the action which tends to be fixed centre stage. I say seems because the video direction (by Brian Large) is utterly perverse and makes it extraordinarily difficult to see what Carsen is doing, let alone decode it. We see the whole stage, maybe, for three seconds in the whole piece. Otherwise 99% of what we get is either close up and even closer up or apparently shot from the restricted view seats high up and close to the side of the stage. The other 1% is just plain nuts and includes a section of the Sophie/Octavian duet in Act 2 where, on stage, Octavian is maybe twenty feet to Sophie’s right but on camera he’s standing right up close on her left hand side. I could go on but I won’t. Suffice it to say the video direction comes close to wrecking an otherwise excellent DVD.