Further information here.
This FroSch was Sawallisch´ last new production as principal conductor of the Bavarian State Opera after 21 years. Recorded on tour in Japan, these were also the first performances of FroSch in Japan and recorded by Japanese television, though not allowed to broadcast it in Japan due to concerns on various aspects of Hofmannsthal´s libretto, such as the appropriateness of Barak having hunchbacks as brothers.
The production was provided by the Japanese headed by Ichikawa. The music was provided by the Europeans.
The production is a curious hybrid of traditional Japanese Kabuki and Western staging, which seems strangely fitting for this opera. The stage is dark, the costumes are Japanese. It is elegant, beautiful and strange. And much better understood by a video clip from the production than by any description I may come up with:
The ending looks the quintessence of Japanese symbolism (of which I indeed know very little): The Emperor and Empress standin above and Barak and his wife below a small bridge.
The only other FroSch on DVD is Solti´s Salzburg Götz Friedrich production filmed around the same time.
Of the singers, Luana DeVol does not approach Cheryl Studer for Solti (the best Kaiserin I have heard apart from Léonie Rysanek). Marjana Lipovsek is a superb, demonic Amme in both productions. The rest of Sawallisch´ cast were neither spectacular nor bad.
Despite this being Sawallisch favourite opera, he simply does not match the poignancy of Solti with the Vienna Philharmonics. As a matter of fact, nobody does.
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Luana DeVol: 3
Marjana Lipovsek: 5
Alan Titus: 3
Peter Seiffert: 3
Janis Martin: 3
Ichikawa´s production: 4
Overall impression: 3