Opera videos of performances before 1980 are quite rare and are mostly films. Recordings of live performances are extremely uncommon and often quite interesting. A couple have just been rereleased on DVD. The one reviewed here is an Ariadne auf Naxos from the 1965 Salzburg Festival (the other is a recording, in German, of Don Giovanni with Fischer-Dieskau – watch this space). It’s an old ORF TV broadcast with a grainy 4:3 black and white picture and less than stellar mono sound but it does provide an idea of what audiences saw and heard fifty years ago.
In 1970 Rolf Liebermann took the assembled forces of the Hamburg State Opera down to a castle in South Germany and made a film of Berg’s Wozzeck. The production is pretty literal. It’s set in Austria in the late 19th century and everything plays out very literally per the libretto but it’s far from being a routine or dull reading. A combination of brilliant conducting, slightly over the top acting, pointing up the Expressionist elements in the music and really good cinematography make this a very tense, creepy and claustrophobic experience. It’s simultaneously rather repellent and hard to watch and deeply engaging. Continue reading