Saturday, 26 April 2008

DVD: Gala concert at the Vienna State Opera

Gala for the 50th anniversary of the reopening of the Vienna State Opera. Vienna State Opera, November 5th 2005
Excerpts from: Don Giovanni, Rosenkavalier, Aida, Meistersinger, Frau Ohne Schatten, Fidelio

Artists include: Agnes Baltsa, Plácido Domingo, Thomas Hampson, Bryn Terfel, Violeta Urmana, Edita Gruberova, Angelika Kirchschlager. Conducting: Daniele Gatti, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Christian Thielemann, Franz Welser-Möst. More information here.

No matter how high the quality of the individual performances, these galas, in my opinion, tend to border on the tedious. Not the least due to the excessive applause between the contributions, at several points outlasting these in time. At least you get an impression of the atmosphere in the packed house, I suppose. During these applause session the camera repeatedly lingered on selected guests, of whom I only recognized Christa Ludwig, seated next to the entrance of the soloists and greeting many as they passed.

Is it worth watching? Definitely yes. Is it worth owning? I suppose that depends your affinity for this sort of thing and degree of liking for the individual performers.

Of particular note:

Bryn Terfel, despite a beautiful voice, is (still) not at his best in the Wagnerian repertoire (here as Hans Sachs).

Violeta Urmana - a really fine dramatic soprano. Couldn´t she be an option to resolve the much-talked-about Norma crisis at the Metropolitan Opera? I am sure she´d be great (here as Aida).

Agnes Baltsa - an immense presence on stage. She must have been completely mesmerizing to experience live in her prime, and was in impressively fine voice here (as Amneris).

Plácido Domingo - in very fine voice (as Radamés).

Angelika Kirchschlager - perhaps the ideal Octavian of today? (here as Octavian).

Christian Thielemann - does have a rather attention-seeking way of conducting (whether intentional is not for me to say), but the orchestra played gloriously with him (Meistersinger and Rosenkavalier).

Angelika Kirchschlager and Genia Kühmeier in the final scene of Rosenkavalier, Thielemann conducts:

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