Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Richard Strauss - Ariadne auf Naxos / Jurinac Grist Hillebrecht Thomas Schoffler Bohm Salzburg Opera|
Actors: Karl Bohm, Sena Jurinach, Reri Grist, Hildegard Hillebrecht, Jess Thomas
Director: Günther Rennert
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
Günther Rennert and Karl Böhm staged this production in 1964 for the Kleines Festspielhaus in Salzburg, remodelled the previous year, using Ita Maximowna?s realistic and atmospherically apt setting for the Prologue and her... more »
"Such Songs To Enchant Us!"
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 10/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We have reached an era where we not only have classic audio performances transferred to the digital medium of CDs, we also are now beginning to get digitized videos (DVDs) of classic stage and concert performances as captured on film. This film of Strauss's 'Ariadne auf Naxos' comes from a live 1965 telecast (in B&W, be it added for those who might be expecting color!) by Austrian Television from the Kleines Festspielhaus at the Salzburg Festival. [ORF broadcast one production a season from Salzburg in those days; one only hopes others will become available on DVD.] It features stellar singers and instrumentalists from top to bottom. Musical direction is by Karl Böhm, then in his late prime at 71 and surely one of the leading Strauss opera conductors of that era, and in the pit is a chamber orchestra drawn from the Vienna Philharmonic. The singers were among the most experienced Strauss performers of the day. Christa Ludwig was scheduled to sing Ariadne (and the Diva in the Prologue) but was indisposed; her last-minute replacement is Hildegard Hillebrecht, herself a redoubtable Straussian (as well as an Isolde to Jess Thomas's Tristan in major houses). Jess Thomas, the American heldentenor with movie-idol looks, sings a heroic Bacchus (and the Tenor in the Prologue). Reri Grist, of the silvery coloratura (and extensive vocal dubbing for movie stars in American films) sings the killer part of Zerbinetta. Sena Jurinac is an ardent and musical Composer in the Prologue. Others in the cast include the always dependable singer/actors Paul Schöffler as the Music Master and Jon van Kesteren as the Dancing Master. The non-singing part of the self-important Major Domo is played with icy hauteur and droll comic timing by Erik Frey. The commedia dell'arte comedians are Gerd Feldhoff (Harlekin), David Thaw (Scaramuccio), Georg Stern (Truffaldin) and David Unger (Brighella). (Unger has always been my ideal David in 'Die Meistersinger' as heard in the Karajan and Kubelik recordings.) The (literally) Greek chorus on the isle of Naxos are Lotte Schädle (Naiad), Claudia Hellmann (Dryad), and Lisa Otto (Echo). I have rarely heard such beautiful performances of this trio. Their pianissimo singing is ravishing.
The stage director was the legendary Günther Rennert. Thank goodness he worked before the Eurotrash-style productions that came later. This is an uncluttered, traditional production with some wonderful comic bits in both the Prologue and the Opera. Stage and costume design, realistic and effective, are by Ita Maximowa.
I want to point out two highlights of this performance. From Bacchus's appearance ('Circe, Circe, kannst du mich hören?') to the very end of the opera the music, the singing, and the acting are at an exalted level rarely experienced. Thomas and Hillebrecht make a wonderful pair of lovers (after Ariadne finally gets it through her head that Bacchus is not Theseus come to take her to the Land of the Dead), and the final scene against the backdrop of a starry sky is stunning.
But even more thrilling is Grist's big scena (from 'Grossmächtige Prinzessin' to 'Stumm ... stumm'), twelve minutes of coloratura fireworks of the highest order. At its finish the audience goes nuts and, breaking with tradition, Grist has to come out and take three solo bows before the ovation ends. I thought they were never going to let the opera proceed, and I agreed with their enthusiasm. This is a performance to treasure and I am so glad it was captured on video.
Obviously one drawback is that the performance is in black and white. Another is that the sound is in mono, very good mono but mono nonetheless. There is rare audio clipping at high volume levels, presumably a much more likely occurrence forty years ago. It is not, however, much of a bother and easily overlooked in the drama of the moment. This clearly would not be anyone's primary or only video of this fabulous opera. I can certainly recommend the one from the Met with James Levine conducting a performance starring Kathleen Battle, Jessye Norman and the late lamented Tatiana Troyanos as the Composer. But for anyone like me who loves this opera and can't be satisfied with just one version, this classic is a must-have.
Heartily recommended (with the aforementioned caveats).
TT=130 mins; subtitles in English, German, Spanish and Italian
A Zerbinetta to treasure; a Komponist to revere
R. W. Holliston | Victoria, B.C. Canada | 10/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is little if anything to add to the comprehensive and professional review below, except perhaps a bit of a caution.
Overall I must say that the Levine video is superior. Even taking into account technological advances, Levine's cast is more consistently fine than Böhm's, and he elicits from his orchestra playing that is tighter and warmer.
Even more so than Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos contains not a single superfluous note or word; therefore every singer and player is critical. That said, it is rare to encounter a perfect performance.
In this one we are let down by the Ariadne, whose singing is often shrill and occasionally flat, and whose characterization is a bit one-dimensional and cursory. In the Levine, Jessye Norman brings a warmth and humanity that is sorely missed in the Böhm. Jess Thomas as Bacchus is handsome and virile; his tone is sometimes full and ringing, but also much of the time strained and pushed. The key role of Harlekin - who has a lovely, Lied-like arietta - is sung with unremitting coarseness by Gerd Feldhoff in an inexcusable casting gaffe. Elsewhere the Musiklehrer and Tanzmeister also strain once or twice too often, and the ensemble of the comics is more ragged than it should be.
So why am I giving this DVD - which cost me twice as much as the Levine, and which is in black and white and features a dated mise-en-scene - five stars?
Well, first of all the trio of Nymphs is wonderful: they more than compensate for the Comics. But Reri Grist as Zerbinetta and, above all, Sena Jurinac as the Komponist are beyond praise: these are legendary performances to savour and be thankful for. Every note, every syllable of these two miraculous performances captures the essence of what Strauss and Hoffmensthal were trying to convey in this great opera.
Anyone looking up Ariadne auf Naxos in the first place will already know that this piece is an acquired taste well worth acquiring. As a first, introductory video, I'd recommend the Levine. Battle, Norman, and Troyanos are stupendous, and the rest of the cast is uniformly excellent. But once you've fallen in love with this bewitching and ultimately profound opera, you won't mind the extra expense of acquiring this video: Grist and Jurinac give performances for the ages."
The "golden" days were not so "golden"
R. G. Rosa | newark, NJ United States | 01/29/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Here's an exaple of the type of performance you could run across during what many older operagoers call the golden age.
Sure, there were many great performances, but there were a lot of duds too.
Take this Ariadne for instance. There are pluses; primarily the delightful Zerbinetta of Reri Grist and the masterful conducting
of Karl Bohm, one of the great Strauss conductors.
Then there are the qualified pluses. Jurinac was a wonderful singer and she was pretty much ideal for a lot of Strauss. She's a bit off form here, I was hoping for more of the glow that she could provide. Thomas tackles a horribly difficult tenor part and acquits himself well, but isn't exactly pleasant to listen too.
Then you have the real downers. Hillebrecht was a second string house soprano who often covered for other sopranos and did last minute substitutions. This was one such occasion.
What do we hear and see? We see clearly why Hillebrecht never rose into the first rank of sopranos. She was ok at best, but then there is the sour , curdled, shrill tone and the off pitch singing. She looks as dumpy and frumpy as she sounds.
The production itself is crude looking and unimaginative for such an important venue such as the Salzburg Festival.
This telecast, in grainy black and white, should have been left sleeping in the vaults, where it belongs. Don't waste your money on this one.
Go for the Dresden DVD, much more creative, or the Met production with Jessye Norman demonstrating just why she was so highly regarded in her prime years."