Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Schubert - Fierrabras|
Actors: Jonas Kaufmann, Juliane Banse, Christoph Strehl, László Polgár, Guido Gotzen
Director: Claus Guth
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Richard | Minneapolis, Mongolia | 12/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The greatest mystery surrounding Fierrabras is why it is so named. Fierrabras is present for maybe half of Act 1, not at all in act 2 and only sings in ensembles in Act 3. It is as though Verdi called Otello Rodgrido. Fierrabras neither gets the girl nor dies. What gives? This production from Munich places the whole opera in Schubert's study complete with a huge grand piano, giant chair and Schubert himself furthering the action by supplying music, cues etc. In the finale the mystery is brought home as Schubert gives everyone except Fierrabras music to sing. Well, you weren't expecting Wagner let alone Weber were you? The plot is pretty undramatic and having the composer as musica ex machina doesn't hurt and may even give a little umph to the work. The plot concerns Charlemagne's fight against the Moors. Roland is one of the main characters. Fierrabras is the son of the Morrish king. But don't worry about the plot - listen to the music. This is Schubert and the melody flows in abundance. There are hints of Weber and the prison scene comes close to plagiarising Fidelio but Schubert pours forth glorious song without end. As I said above the action has been moved into Schubert's study. For some reason all the leading men wear spectacles like Schubert. And there is a lot of business with blindfolds. But at least there are no trench coats in sight. I am unfamiliar with any of the singers but they are all excellent. And Welser-Most has an obvious love for the score. Any lover of Schubert should savor this attempt at opera even though it is not a success."
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 06/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...is the setting for this rare production by the often innovative Zurich Opera House. The stage is Schubert's own music room, with Schubert himself in the throes of composing an opera, Fierrabras to be, on a story he has hardly begun to resolve himself. Schubert speaks occasionally but never sings, jots notes to himself, escorts his characters on and off stage through the innumerable doors of his imagination, and hovers anxiously as they sing his impassioned music. The story concerns a Frankish king, a Moorish prince, and a triangle of lovers from both camps. In many ways, the libretto is leftover Baroque, not quite coherent but open-ended enough to allow poetic outbursts of sentiment to be rendered as Lieder. The music is pure German romanticism, equipoised between Beethoven and Wagner. The juxtaposition is sketchy at best, although if one saw enough productions one might begin to suspend disbelief. After all, the story is no more absurd than most of Handel's. The clever folk at the Zurich Opera House have done well to stage Fierrabras 'psychologically' and symbolically, rather than as a gaudy chivalric pageant. The tentative presence of poor love-stricken Schubert - literally stricken, soon to die of syphilis - aptly corresponds to the tentative nature of the opera, the composer's effort to invent a genre to satisfy his romantic inklings. The same opera company, with conductor Franz Welser-Möst, has produced one of the most intelligent and satisfying DVDs of Mozart's Magic Flute - the only production I've seen that realizes Mozart's philosophical intent.
Of course it's the music that justifies producing Fierrabras at all. Commissioned in 1823, it was never staged and Schubert was never paid for it. The first production ever was in Vienna in 1988. Oblivion was the fate of a whole generation of German opera, utterly overshadowed by Rossini and Donizetti. In this strange production from Zurich, it's the singing that wins my five-star approval. Tenor Cristoph Strehl, baritone Michael Volle, and soprano Juliane Banse deliver their arias in the rich vocal style of Schubert Lieder...which of course they are! The choruses of women and men that pop in and out of Schubert's mental doors are stirring, and the orchestral ruminations that underscore the spoken dialogue of the libretto are full of forebodings and interior meanings. The only weak performance is that of Twyla Robinson as the Moorish princess in love with Roland; both her singing and her acting are discordant, more appropriate to a 'can belto' Valkyrie than to this fragile self-referential psychodrama. Musically, perhaps the most impressive moments in the opera are the slightly chaotic ensembles, where each character seems to sing her/his thoughts to his/her own melody.
It would be hard to deny that Rossini was more entertaining and Donizetti more theatrical, and that Schubert had little chance of holding the stage against them. But in our multifarious era, when all the music of history can be heard in our own salons, an opera like Fierrabras is a worthy addition to the DVD repertoire. I enjoyed it. You might also.
The music I'd like to hear in heaven.
C. Franco | Padova, Italy | 12/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I think this is not strictly an opera. I don't like they put in stage Schubert himself as a character. But music and vocal score are great, kissed by heaven."
Staged in Schubert's Imagination!!!
P. Sutherland | Berea, Ohio, USA | 04/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an opera with glorious music (on par with Mozart)and wonderful singing with very clever staging. I don't know if Schubert is actually a part of the opera or if this was director Gudrun Hartmann's idea. But, the entire opera takes place in Schubert's music room with a gigantic piano and chair, which are probably the only "real" things in the room; the rest is Schubert's imagination. He is present through the entire production taking part in every scene. He is composing and directing as the thing moves along, handing music to the players, bringing them onto the stage, positioning their hands, etc. All the romantic heroes, Fierrabras, Eginhard and Roland, are his alter egos. How do I know this? Schubert pictures them as himself: the four are all dressed alike, wearing identical glasses. The actor who plays Schubert, Wolfgang Beuschel, has a speaking part only though he hardly says a word. His main job is to reflect emotions as the action proceeds. You see that he is feeling all this as his imagination produces the opera. And he does an excellent job!
The principal singers, Laszlo Polgar, the king; Juliane Banse, his daughter, Emma; Michael Volle, Roland; Jonas Kaufmann, Fierrabras; Christoph Strehl, Eginhard; Twyla Robinson, Florinda; and Gunther Groissbock, Boland; were each excellent as solos and together as ensembles.
If you view this opera as a creation being produced while you watch it, the bizarre aspects of the staging make sense and you can focus on and just enjoy the rich music and fine acting.
This whole thing is very Zurich, a very innovative opera house. Franz Welser-Most conducts masterfully.