Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Gundula Janowitz, Bernd Weikl, René Kollo, Sona Ghazarian, Edita Gruberova
Director: Otto Schenk
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Studio: Uni Dist Corp (music) Release Date: 05/13/2008
Beautifully filmed and performed late Strauss
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 05/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Richard Strauss, like Igor Stravinsky with The Rite of Spring, seemed frightened by what he had composed with the dissonant modern operas Elektra and Salome, retreating, as did Stravinsky, into a more conventional music of the past. It remained for Arnold Schoenberg to take the plunge and remove the trappings of tonality. Strauss, with his librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, composed a series of lyrical dramas that are quite conventional but often feature music of great beauty. Their last collaboration was Arabella, begun in 1927 but not completed until October 1932 and first performed in Dresden 1 July 1933. Composition was slowed when Hofmannsthal died in early July 1929, having completed his revision of the first act. Strauss was forced to tackle the libretto on his own, a difficult task since he was not happy with the plot, considering it uninteresting and lacking any true conflict. He made some changes and, although uninspired by the libretto, finally finished the opera. His criticism of the libretto is valid: the plot has precious little forward thrust, the character of Arabella is somewhat tame, the others more or less bland, as well. Nevertheless, the opera contains much music of sumptuous beauty as only Strauss could write, creating in Arabella a symphonic portrait of an ideal woman, a three hour long stage tone poem. Strauss' writing for string quintet and woodwinds is especially masterful. Passages containing music for bass clarinet and horns that are passed to pizzicato strings reveal Strauss the orchestral wizard, his mastery of instrumental dynamics is stunning.
Gundula Janowiz is a fine Arabella in this beautifully filmed version of the opera, directed in 1977 by Otto Schenk. Costumes and sets are gorgeous, wonderfully evoking the slightly decadent Vienna of the 1860s. Bernd Weikl is a strong Mandryka, Arabella's husband to be. Matteo is Rene Kollo, a singer whose slightly reedy voice has never been a favorite of mine but who seemed to be ubiquitous in the 1970s. He is less of a vocal nuisance here, perhaps because he wanders through the opera constantly threatening suicide. Sona Ghazarian is an adorable Zdenka. Edita Gruberova is the Fiakermilli in an early appearance. Georg Solti directs the Vienna Philharmoniker, who are absolutely nonpareil in this music. Their sound is lucious, rich and beautifully burnished with a magnificent grasp of Strauss' often difficult writing for the winds and brasses. It is hard to imagine this music played any better than this.
The two DVDs last 189 minutes with a crisp remastered picture and clear sound in both PCM stereo and DTS 5.1. The discs are worldwide code 0. The usual Decca menus are here as well as an informative booklet.
Late Strauss that is stunningly filmed, nicely sung, well acted and masterfully performed by Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmoniker, make Arabella strongly recommended.
David D. Dollinger | Pasadena, CA | 06/15/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have rated this DVD four stars because it is a film and not a live performance. Yes, the singers' attention to lipsynching is good (as good as the performance of Ariadne auf Naxos)but the performance still lacks the effectiveness that only a live performance has. It is also on two discs which is unnecessary--afterall DGG (a Universal Company) released their Arabella on one disc.
Initially I was reluctant to consider this performance. Solti's recording was the first complete (true an earlier one from Salzburg was released in the 90's) recording. Starring Della Casa, Gueden and George London it should have perfection. Alas Solti's brutal handling of the music and his rigidity effectively destroyed the beauty of the score. Later a DGG live performance conducted by Keilbert with Della Casa and Fischer Dieskau was released. Keilbert obviously loved the score but by then Della Casa could no longer sustain long phrases without great effort. Fischer Dieskau was never a "natural" Mandryka but he was so musical that he could compensate artistically for what he lacked vocally. Te Kanawa's recording was scuppered by a dreadful Zdenka and an undistinguished Mandryka.
But onto the DVDs. It is interesting to compare the DGG release with the Decca, notably for the "secondary roles. DGG gives us Donald McIntyre and Helga Dernesch, a Wotan and a Brunhilde-Isolde cum Klytemnesta. The Decca counterparts are second tier singers at the State Opera, never less than competent, but hardly in the same class. Decca does manage to give a Card Dealer whose career ranged from Brunhilde to Fidelio, but Modl is close to voiceless but fortunately the role is in the conversational mode so that what we have is a "name" but not necessarily a "voice". The Met's Fortune Teller is drawn from its comprimarios who can sing the notes rather than intone them as Modl does.
But what of the leads? Kanawa at fifty but certainly not looking it is giving the performance of her life. She can be responsive to the text and is much more than a stand and deliver singer. She is reported to have said that she found German somewhat daunting but that hasn't stopped her from singing the Marschallin and the Countess in Capriccio. Surprisingly Janowitz isn't much more intelligible. In the conversational passages she articulates the text more clearly, but in the more lyrical passages she is content to let the voice do its thing. In a British Magazine, International Opera Collector (alas no longer around) she was interviewed by J. B. Stean. She told Stean that she did not like live performances, too many things could go wrong. Well, I only saw her once, in Ariadne, at the Vienna State Opera and it was glorious, far more effective than her highly regarded recording. More alive, more spontaneous, more communicative and singing quite beautifully. She has two bootleg recordings of Rosenkavalier. The one I have dates from 1978 at the Salzburg festival: it was truly a gala affair with Popp, Minton, Moll, Pavarotti, and conducted by von Dohnanyi. Since she never sang this in the studio it is a must have for Straussians and since this is live it possesses all the aforementioned virtues. Her Eva in what surely is one of the best Meistersingers also ranks high for all the same reasons. No, Gundula, you should have let your heart speak when you were asked to do both the Ariadne and the Arabella. For all your virtues (and they are plenty) my heart does go to Kiri, simply because she was willing to take the chance and triumph.
For Mandryka, the choice between Brendl and Weikl is difficult, both are superb singing actors (interestingly enough I have both of them as Hans SAchs and I could never choose one over the other)both are in sovereign voice and both bring a lot to the party. Weikl may be slightly younger, but this could never be a factor in making a choice. Zdenka if a thankless role, except for joining her sister in the glorious first act duet much of her music is not grateful; I can understand why Della Casa who sang the role in 1948 was only too eager to assume the mantle of Arabella. Ghazarian may make creamier sounds (afterall Vienna is her home base) but short of committing the sins of Gabriela Fontana (Kiri's sister in the CD) and neither are guilty of that, I suppose the slight edge would have to go to the Decca DVD.
Solti has clearly had some second thoughts on this score. He is more relaxed and more willing to let his singers "have their way" with some of the most beautiful phrases in the opera. A more natural Strauss conductor, Thielemann, is probably not going to be able to document his career in the way that Solti has, the classical business being what it is. A pity, since there will probably be not Frosch, not to mention, a Ring, but then we really don't have the singers for Siegfried and Brunhilde or Wotan.
For many the choice may be made easily since Decca has the Vienna Philharmonic, but never sell the Met orchestra short even if it hasn't had the history of the older institution. It supplies all the same ingredients under Thielemann. I have both, and I suspect that I will return to Kiri, but always glad to know that Gundula is available.
Glorious performance of Strauss's opera
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 03/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Waldner: Hans Kraemmer
Adelaide: Margarita Lilowa
Arabella: Gundula Janowitz
Zdenka: Sona Ghazarian
Mandryka: Bernd WEikl
Matteo: Rene Kollo
Elemer: Goran Franssom
Dominik: Hans Helm
Lamoral: Kurt Rydl
Eine Fortuna: Martha Modl
Fiakermilli: Edita Gruberova
Vienna Philharmonic, Georg Solti
Directed by Otto Schenk
It's a "most ingenious paradox" that Roger Pines in The Opera Quarterly, and David Hamilton, of The Metropolitan Opera Guide to Opera on Video had completely dissenting reactions to all of the Arabellas on video. Pines preferred the MET video by far with Te Kanawa, had reservations about the Schenk film; and found Della Casa self-indulgent, mannered and fussy. Hamilton on the other hand, found Te Kanawa lacking, and was so-so about the MET DVD; really liked the Schenk movie, and was rather neutral about Della Casa and that release.
I happen to like all three, for different reasons; but they all do justice to Strauss's opera.
This movie has its limitations: it's lip-synched, but done unsually well. Some of the camerawork is claustrophobic and too-close. But overall it is a simply gorgeous, moving film.
The director of photography, the always-artistic Wolfgang Treu, captures a nostalgic, amber-colored atmosphere, with rich palettes, and a sinuous, warm tone. It looks to me like the time has been pushed up to the Arte Nouveau-Arts-and-Crafts Fin de Siecle era, and it works beautifully. The sets are eloquent, earthy and comfortingly inviting. It abets the score and story most fetchingly.
The key to this movie is both of a familial and romantic warmth. 1977 was a second Golden Age in Vienna for Strauss, and here it is in all its glory.
This movie, which I first had on LaserDisc some 20 years ago, has been remastered in video and audio, and is better than ever in both respects. But what a cast!
This movie was the first time I had seen Gundula Janowitz as a performer at length. I understood why, even if for a brief period, she was so highly regarded. I'd say this film captures her at her most sympathetic and inviting. What I was not prepared for at the time was the sheer beauty of her singing in "Aber der Richtige," a melody that won me over immediately. It is an exquisite rendering, consummately sung. Janowitz herself has never looked more appealing than she does here, flatteringly coiffed, gowned, and made up. Her characteristic, slightly horsey denticulation somehow has been transcended. I have the Bernstein Fidelio, and she's overparted there, vocally and dramatically, and not really convincing; the recent release of the Bohm/Sanjust Ariadne film is better, but this Arabella, lyrically, rather than heroically written, finds her at her most congenial. You will not find her warmer or more ravishing than here. She is not always natural as captured on film, a bit awkward at times, and there's that Teutonic reserve; but that is actually rather appealing; she's not hogging the camera, and when she smiles, it is disarming. A triumph, I'd say, for a singer who's perceived as being rather chilly.
Most importantly, she has a suitable rapport with Bernd Weikl, an absolutely perfectly cast Mandryka. Vocally, histrionically, and physically, he is the Mandryka of ideal. Their scenes together are captivating.
The final, summing up of the story is wonderfully done.
The Lebanese soprano Sona Ghazarian is a bit pressed on high as Zedenka, but she's got a marvelous presence, highly appealing, and has particulary expressive eyes.
Rene Kollo's high-strung vocal manner and intensity works well for Matteo.
The parents, Hans Kraemmer and Margarita Lilowa, are perfect.
Edita Gruberova's drunken, floozie Fiakermilli is an absolute hoot: she provides edge, comic relief and wit to a role, all full of yodels and merry caterwauls, that is normally annoying; here, this Nouveau-era Material Girl provides the fun and glitter in the big party scene.
Solti and the Vienna Phil. The conductor, far more relaxed than on his commercial recording, makes the orchestra sing with the lushest of sounds.
This movie, now 31 years old, gives you the best of the second Golden Age of Vienna.
A Tale of Beauty and Love
Mr John Haueisen | WORTHINGTON, OHIO United States | 12/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Strauss was a true master of opera, insisting on a libretto or story line that is consistent and plausible--something often lacking in works by other operatic composers. With his librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Strauss debated and reshaped Arabella over a period of many months. To this good story he adds sumptuous music--not just in the arias, but even in the dialog that goes between the major arias. A great example is in this performance, with the music welling up as Mandrika (Bernd Weikl) asks his future father-in-law if it were not possible that a man could fall in love with a picture of a beautiful woman.
Beautiful period costumes (mid 1800s) and sets, together with brilliant use of lighting and close-ups, (director Otto Schenk) require the great acting skills that are demonstrated as well--a brilliant production on all levels.
The "glass of water scene" is a magic moment, as in Der Rosenkavalier where Sophie's and Octavian's eyes meet--a moment captured in time where a couple simultaneously become aware of their love.
All the roles in this production are sung and acted without a weak link. Gundula Janowitz and Bernd Weikl are the dream couple, closely followed by Arabella's sister, Zdenka (Sonia Ghazarian) and Matteo (a young Rene Kollo).
The special short but bubbly role of Fiakermilli is done to perfection by Edita Gruberova. Her light, easy singing (achieved by hours of demanding daily work to control her voice to perfection) allows Gruberova to put across the image of an intoxicating, dizzying party girl. Georg Solti equals all the singing cast with an incomparable orchestral performance by the Vienna Philharmonic.
There are some who dislike filmed opera performances. But Arabella is a love story--a Prince Charming story where close-ups of admiring glances and jealous reactions are key to a full appreciation of the work. Perhaps there has never been a greater director than Otto Schenk for capturing these expressions of great acting that are demanded by Richard Strauss. It is for this very reason that this filmed performance so closely shows emotions of the principal characters that it is the best introduction to Strauss' tale of beauty and love.