|© Monika Rittershaus for Salzburger Festspiele|
- Maximum points to Christian Thielemann for a marvellously conducted performance, powerful and detailed and with the uncut version.
- Minimum points to Christof Loy for his non-staging, placing the action in the famous recording studio Sofiensaal at the time of the first recording of the opera (1955), creating a static and ineffective staging adding no more to the opera than a concert performance. And, for some obscure reason, the end takes place in the middle of a Christmas concert. Or indeed, adding less, as the secondary daily day drama between the characters singing Barak and his Wife is both annoying and redundant. To reduce Richard Strauss´ epic fairy-tale to this is simply a shame. Christof Loy is well-known for his static stagings (among the recent a rather superb Lucio Silla), but this is by far the most extreme he has taken his directorial approach. The next step would indeed be a concert performance. A golden opportunity for a magnificent DVD thus wasted, as Die Frau really is a conductors opera and some may well feel that Thielemann surpasses both Sawallisch and Solti on previous DVDs (Sawallisch perhaps but not Solti, imho....)
- All singers were good, but none were real standouts. Anne Schwanewilms, who originally trained as a mezzo, has a simply wonderful voice and etwas altmodisch way of singing almost vibratoless in the middle register, though the voice may be in the smaller range for the Empress. Always dramatically effective, though not overly nuanced vocally was Michaela Schuster, while Stephen Gould delivered the best I have heard him do and in any respect ways above his rather dismal Siegfried in Bayreuth a couple of seasons ago. Evelyn Herlitzius received the second biggest ovation (after Thielemann) for a Wife of Barak (a somewhat vocally tired Wolfgang Koch), probably not to be seen much better today, despite occasional straining especially in the upper register. And I must admit to simply not really liking her voice.
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Christian Thielemann: 5
Christof Loy: 1
Stephen Gould: 3
Evelyn Herlitzius: 3
Anne Schwanewilms: 4
Michaela Schuster: 3-4
Wolfgang Koch: 3
Overall impression: 4 (because the conductor is really the crucial point in this opera)