Saturday 8 November 2008

DVD: Solti Die Frau ohne Schatten

Die Frau Ohne Schatten.
Salzburg Festival 1992. Director: Götz Friedrich. Cast: Cheryl Studer (Kaiserin), Thomas Moser (Kaiser), Robert Hale (Barak), Eva Marton (His Wife), Marjana Lipovsek (Amme), Bryn Terfel (Spirit Messenger). Conductor: Sir Georg Solti with the Vienna Philharmonics. Further information here.

If you ever consider buying a DVD solely for the sake of the conductor, this could be the one.

One may argue it doesn´t make sense as Sir Georg Solti has recorded Die Frau Ohne Schatten on CD with virtually the same cast. However, it does make a difference. The intensity of Sir Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonics in this live Salzburg Festival performance of Die Frau Ohne Schatten is simply unbeatable. His way with this score is unreal. The contrapuncts of the initial kei-ko-bad chords - one of the greatest opera openings of all time - immediately signal the greatness to come. Perhaps this is Sir Georg Solti´s finest achievement. I would not rule it out. The contrpunctual elements are emphasized as are the brass section, the energy level is immense throughout and as always with Sir Georg Solti: Straight-on and never sentimental. One of the truly great interpretations of any opera. Or rather: Of any work.

That said, Götz Friedrichs´s staging may offend very few, though neither traiditional or particularly inventive. The sets are abstract, but the story is told relatively straight-forward, with emphasis on the the parallel fantasy and human planes of the storyline.

Cheryl Studer, here in her prime, surely is the greates Empress since Leonie Rysanek and most unfortunately is replaced by Julia Varady (though fine) on the CD recording. Cheryl Studer has some fabulously floating high notes, though perhaps she may not be the most intense actress. Superb also Marjana Lipovsek as the Nurse. Eva Marton is seen in the early phases of her vocal breakdown. Barak´s Wife is one of the last recoredings she gets away with reasonably well. But no more than that.
Robert Hale, rather peculiar looking, is for once a true dramatic barytone and not the dramatic bass-barytone often seen in this part. He inhibits Barak´s character in a strange way, perhaps helped by him being so thin his collar bones are very prominent, rather fitting for a poor dyer having to carry his stuff to the market every day. Thomas Moser´s Kaiser (replaced by Plácido Domingo on the CD recording) is more forgettable. Furthermore, Bryn Terfel, at the beginning of his career, is seen in the small part of the Spirit Mesenger.

The only current alternative to this DVD is the curious Kabuki staging conducted by the superb (though not equally superb, in my opinion) Wolfgang Sawallisch.

This is Sir Georg Solti´s show.

Empress "Ach wehe mir":

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Cheryl Studer: 5
Thomas Moser: 3
Marjana Lipovsek: 5
Eva Marton: 3
Robert Hale: 4

Götz Friedrich´s production: 5

Sir Georg Solti: 6

Overall impression: 4-5


Anonymous said...

"Sir Georg Solti: 6"

Gotta love that one ;)

Anonymous said...

You could have given him a seven...
How do you explain he was so brutal and rustic in his 60s and 70s wagnerian recordings ?

Ok with the five to the production...

But (I think I have already said that here), I find Lipovsek raunchy (she is much better in the kabuki production), Marton unbearable, and Hale and Moser completely exhausted in the third act... Only Studer is perfect (vocally better than Rysanek I think)...

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