Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Rossini - Der Barbier von Sevilla |
Il Barbiere di Siviglia/The Barber of Seville
Actors: Fritz Wunderlich, Hermann Prey, Erika Koth, Hans Hotter, Max Proebstl
Director: Joseph Keilberth
Genres: Comedy, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Televised opera from the golden age
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 01/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In an era when Sophia Loren acted Aida while Renata Tebaldi sang it, this television production of Rossini's Barber of Seville was a rarity. Not using the playback method in which actors or singers mime to a prerecorded track, this 1959 production of the Bavarian State Opera was broadcast live on Christmas Day and recorded for television by Bayerischer Rundfunk. It is the superb cast, especially the appearance of the tenor Fritz Wunderlich, that makes it such an estimable historical document.
Filmed in black and white, recorded in mono and sung in German, this DVD will probably be of interest to fans of Wunderlich (who died young at age 35 from a fall in 1966) or of opera performance in it's "golden age". The German adaptation, which I would have thought nearly impossible for the often hyper Rossini, is quite good with only a few clumsy moments where the ornate German syllables outnumber the notes and must be awkwardly crammed into an Italian patter song.
Wunderlich sings Count Almaviva superbly, negotiating this difficult tenore di grazia role with relative ease. His Italianate lyric tenor voice, almost Schipa-like in it's clarity, is beautifully present even in this old television recording. His acting is similarly superb, reflecting the intensive lessons he'd had in Stuttgart as a young singer. Videos of Wunderlich in complete operas are a comparative rarity so that this DVD is undoubtedly important for that reason alone.
A youthful Hermann Prey solidifies his position as the finest Figaro in the German speaking world with a sparkling performance. He was an incomparable comedic actor as well as singer and I treasure every performance of his I own. The most interesting cast member is the Wagnerian bass-baritone and THE great Wotan in the Ring cycle at Bayreuth after World War II, Hans Hotter, who died in 2003 at age 94. He sings Don Basilio brilliantly and he's funny! Max Proebstl plays Rosina's dull-witted guardian Don Bartolo, generally hamming it up with slapstick humor and over-the-top sight gags. Rosina is sung by Erika Köth, an excellent bel canto soprano famous in Munich as Lucia di Lammermoor. She negotiates Rossini's often fiendish vocal flourishes and fioratura with relative aplomb. Sets and costumes are functional at best; the antiquated set resembles a dainty doll's house and the production is pretty spartan. The Bayerisches Staatsorchester and the Chorus of the Bayerischen Staatsoper are conducted by Joseph Keilberth, who does a creditable job under the pressure of live television cameras. Their performance is quite good though not world class.
The transfer to DVD is expert but be forewarned that the clarity of the image is nowhere near today's digitally clear standard. Television in 1959 was slightly fuzzy though here it is minimal. The image is in black and white and the picture format is NTSC full screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Menus are in English with the usual 6 subtitled languages available. During the 1950's microphones from Telefunken and Neumann provided a plummy sound with a rich, warm bloom to recordings. That appears the case here because the DVD's dual-channel mono track sounds eerily modern. It is stunningly lifelike for an old recording. I was amazed by it's clarity and presence!
This DVD is highly recommended for those interested in a video document of Opera in it's "golden age". Taking my provisos into account, you might just discover why artists like Fritz Wunderlich were so treasured once upon a time. This is a time capsule recording worth getting if you are forgiving of it's historical limitations.
Delightful German-language version of Rossini's comedy
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 02/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Back in the day, there were "traditions" about The Barber of Seville, Rossini's comedy. The recitatives were severely cut. Rosina was usually sung by a soprano, who often transposed much of the music up. In the Lesson Scene, most Rosinas substituted an aria of their choice instead of singing Rossini's "Contro un cor." And the long, fiendishly difficult aria "Cessa di piu resistere" was always cut.
Today, most of these traditions are gone. Rosina is usually sung by a mezzo, although soprano Rosinas remain popular. However, "Una voce poco fa" even when sung by sopranos is nowadays sung in its original key of E. (Although singing it in its original key was not uncommon even back in the day -- Luisa Tetrazzini made a remarkable version of the aria, sung in its original key.) "Contro un cor" has been restored in the Lesson Scene. And with tenors like Juan Diego Florez, it's considered a requirement to sing "Cessa di piu resistere."
This 1959 telecast of Der Barbier von Sevilla (sung in German) shows what fun a "traditional" Barber could be. It was telecast from Munich on Christmas. What a great Christmas present! The cast is uniformly excellent. Fritz Wunderlich, before his tragic death in 1966, had probably the most beautiful lyric tenor voice of his generation. It was pure, it was bell-like, it was just sheer beauty. He's a fun actor too, making Almaviva a real charmer. Hans Hotter takes a break from his usual heavy Wagnerian roles like Wotan or the Dutchman and is a very funny Don Basilio. He uses his enormous height to much comic effect. Hermann Prey would later make an Italian-language film of Barber with Teresa Berganza, but personally I like him better here. His voice is fresher, and the Ponnelle film is a complete recording dubbed into a lip-synched performance. This is a live performance, and thus has a feeling of real spontaneity. Max Proebstl, donning a hilarious looking wig, is a delightfully dumb Bartolo. Erika Koth has a very beautiful soprano voice, with an enchanting fast vibrato that feels like a gentle wind breeze. But her voice can turn very wiry on high notes. And in this performance she's the most content to simply stand and sing. In the Lesson Scene she interpolates Norina's aria "Quel guardo il cavaliere" from Donizetti's Don Pasquale. But this is a minor complaint. Overall, this performance is a beautiful example of ensemble singing.
For a modern, complete Il Barbiere di Siviglia, I heartily recommend the new release on Decca, taken from a performance in Madrid. The video stars the uber-Rossini tenor Juan Diego Florez, who really lives up to his reputation. But if you want to have a lot of fun, get this video too."
If it has color, then 10 stars wouldn't be enough.
Abel | Hong Kong | 02/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this DVD to death.
I've got Florez's Madrid version, and love that one too, but ever since I've this one, I just couldn't forget the scenes from this black-and-white version, sung and acted to such liveliness and freshness that it is at once enjoyable and heartbreaking.
The opening duet between Figaro and Almaviva already tells more than enough of the standard for the rest of the show. Hermann Prey at his prime, plus the legendary Fritz Wunderlich in oil-painting attire and postures, sung to utmost perfection of tone and beauty of expression. I almost cried when I saw this scene on Youtube, having seen earlier the DVD of Madrid's performance. I rushed out to get this German DVD, and am so glad that I got it!
Erika Koeth sung a brilliant soprano version Rosina. Her coloraturas virtually blow you off. Her duet with Prey is so vivid and funny.
With these two great duets, I need not say one more word about the ultra-high level of performance by Prey in this DVD.
Wunderlich, not much seen in DVD, was a wonderful singing-actor, not just a first-class lyrical tenor. His Almaviva is totally convincing - aristocratic, lovesick, generous...any young girl would fall in love with.
I am not derogating from Juan's great Madrid performance. But there, he doesn't have any strong supporting cast.
Believe me, this German version is an out-and-out killer!
If you like Fritz Wunderlich or Rossini's "Barber" in German
Alan Majeska | Bad Axe, MI, USA | 01/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are a purist about opera or Classical music, believing operas should be performed only in their native language, or seeing Rossini's "Barber" as a Spanish opera, then you should avoid this DVD. But if you like great singing by the likes of Fritz Wunderlich (1930-1966) and Hermann Prey (1929-1998): they have terrific teamwork here - then grab this, by all means! At first the German words for Rossini's "Barber" were disconcerting, but the ear adjusts quickly, and with such wonderful singing and acting, any reservations are swept aside. Hans Hotter is seen as Basilio, in a comic role I didn't know he was capable of; Erika Koth is an excellent Rosina, as seen through the aural lens of Vienese operetta. The Black and white picture is fine, but there are relatively few closeups, and using the "Zoom" function produces some fuzzy looking film. Still, video technology in 1959 was limited, compared with what we have today, and we are fortuneate to have this in DVD form, for the ages.
Joseph Keilberth (1908-1968) leads Rossini in a very Italianate style, the orchestra never being heavy or too serious. The Bavarian State Orchestra made many recordings, but this is my first exposure to them in a Rossini opera.
For a contrast, try Rossini's "Barber" in Jean Pierre Ponelle's film, with Luigi Alva, Teresa Berganza, Hermann Prey, Enzo Dara, and Paolo Montarsolo, with Claudio Abbado/La Scala (DG), sung in Italian, with no audience present. I learned "Barber" from Abbado's recording, and it is very fine, too.
Recommended then, for fans of great singing, of Fritz Wunderlich, Hermann Prey or Joseph Keilberth. I will be watching this repeatedly with much pleasure."