Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Schwanewilms, Mori, Luisi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Medici Arts continues its series of high-class recordings from the world-famous Semperoper in Dresden. Richard Strauss (1864 1949) has, of course, always been a very special favourite at the Dresden Opera because many of h... more »
A. Lupu | Rochester, MN USA | 12/29/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This opera is defined as "Komedie fur Musik", but it is far away from being a comedy, at least not in this production. The plot is a farce and Baron Ochs is a very annoying character and certainly not a funny one. But that is secondary, the two most important characters are Marschallin and Octavian, and in this production they are fabulous. Their development through the plot is what makes this opera great together with great music. The best of all is the last scene with Marschallin, Octavian and Sophie reflecting their souls into music. Far away from a comic situation, it is wonderfully realized with an almost static staging. Simply great!!
The singers are good and act their roles well, but Anne Schwanewilms stands-up from the crowd, a real treat to listen to her and see her act in this introspective role (Marschallin).
The staging is very well done and pleasing to watch. It is supposed to be set after WWII which makes some parts of the libretto seem awkward, but it does not distract from the plot and the music. This Blu-Ray disc is a joy to watch and to listen, although it appears that the sound is weak and you need to increase the volume much more than other similar discs. Strongly recommended.
A Great Rosenkavalier
David D. Dollinger | Pasadena, CA | 12/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I first received this set, I put it on ASAP. My initial reaction was less than positive and before I wrote about my feelings I felt that it deserved a second hearing which it received this afternoon.
There were some negative reactions that were not cleared up. First off, the technical aspect. I should admit that I do not have high definition, blue ray, etc. However, at least 98% of my DVD's sound find, e.g., the sound level is satisfactory and the aural pleasure is usually satisfactory. With this performance, however, it is necessary to boost my sound level way beyond where I usually have it. I don't know whether or not this is a good or a bad thing. I don't think it would have detered me from purchasing the set. The only singer whose presence is less than pleasing is Kurt Rydl' Ochs. Rydl's voice is the right weight and his knowledge of the role beyond question. He is, alas, afflicted with a wobble whenever it is necessary to bring up the volumn. Obviously parlando passages are not affected as much and when he is not aiming for volumn the wobble disappears! The only recording I have with him is also Rosenkavlier from Dresden. Recorded around 1989 there is no problem. He is also Hagen in the Audi Gotterdammerung (dating from 1991,I think). There is evidence of it but the role while pivotal is not large and the rest of the singing in the cast is not of a high caliber so that he doesn't stand out.
As regards the staging, even though we are supposedly circa 1950, Vienna, the director would disappoint the Regie oriented. For the women the skirts are long--the Dior "new look"? Even so they are very chic and flattering. Ocktavian in uniform to present the rose could easily have been cast in a conventional production. The first act set is also one (with a few changes, additions) that would have fit in with the same traditional production. No, for "Konzept" you would have to go to the wretched Zurich production (ghastly) or the Carsen production coming from Salzburg; this production in terms of costuming appear to cover the first fifty years of the twentieth century. I find this produdtion fascinating and well sung. Carsen is consistent in his production. The Zurich set has some relatively good singing going for it but the "konzept" is simply irritating. This set does however boast the worst Italian Tenor; admittedly this is niggling point, but when so much is irritating it ends up being one more log to throw on the fire. Oh yes, the presentation of the rose is set in a kitchen!
But onto the singing in this set. The Marschallin is sung by Anne Schwanenwilms. This artist is indeed fortunate; she is blessed with looking good--an undertatement as she is the most beautiful Marie Theres since Schwarzkopf--but she posseses a voice of geat beauty and an intelligence that enables her to create a character with complexity. She also has an inner radiance--innig(?) that is luminous.Her first act monolgue is touching and radiant. The actual voice itself is one of great beauty, soft grained yet not without power. I would dearly love to hear her in Mozart, the Countess, and the Countess in Capriccio. Oddly she came to international noteriety when it was announced that Deborah Voigt (at ROH) was being replaced by Schwanenwilms: reason? the "little black dress"! This was preop bariatric surgery for Ms. Voigt and even though she knew about it for a year she chose to advertise it just prior to this run of Ariadne auf Naxos. Of course there was an immediate outrage for Voigt fans and I assume that Schwanenwilms knew of as well. I suppose Voigt was looking for some revenge, but this was not the right way.
The other major voice is the Ocktavian, Anka Vondung: another German beauty with a creamy warm and luscious voice. She is also in the most recent Cosi Fan Tutte from Glyndebourne--a highly recommended set. While I wish the role had not been co-opted by mezzos (my ideal singers in thie role are Jurinac and Seefried) she has a good top and and the "physique du role" that are ideal. She is an entry into an already crowded field; we are lucky to have so many good mezzos around.
The Sophie is (I assume) a Japanese, Maki Mori. Well sung with a bright, if small, voice.
The orchestra is the Dresdenstaatskappele, one of the great opera orchestras. It is interesting that they have chosen an Italian as their conductor and even though he was born in Genoa much of this work has occurred in central Europe. For those lucky enough to have surround sound having this orchestra is a plus. Even with my caveats I still have to give the set five stars on the basis of the Marschallin and Oktavian; others may not feel similarly inclined."
A Stylish Rosenkavalier
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 12/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In November 2007 the Dresden State Opera spent several weeks in Japan and among the operas they presented was this production of Strauss's 'Der Rosenkavalier'. Certainly the company has a long association with the work, having given its première in 1911. Presented at NHK Hall in Tokyo, this performance does not stint on scenery or costumes; it is a full production complete with huge chorus and cast as well as the marvelous Semper Opera orchestra -- aka the Dresden Staatskapelle -- under its new music director Fabio Luisi. Most of the cast is not well known in the US, although the Marschallin -- lyric soprano Anne Schwanewilms -- is growing in renown; her first act Monolog is marvelous as is the final act Trio. She brings dignity and nobility to the part. She is perhaps the best Marschallin I've seen since Elisabeth Söderström. The Ochs, Kurt Rydl, has had a long and illustrious career, but he is a bit too crude in his acting and the voice no longer has its former luster. The Italian Singer is Roberto Saccà (I tend to think of him, rather, as Robert Secco); his aria in Act I is not one of the production's highlights. The pants-role of Octavian is portrayed by a mezzo I'd never heard of, Anke Vondung, and she is one of the real stars of this performance. She not only looks the part and has a luscious voice that she uses with musicality, she is also a marvelous actor; there were indeed times when I forgot she was a woman. Sophie is sung by a young and attractive soprano, Maki Mori. She acts well and has a lovely, well-controlled high soprano; she is outstanding both in the Presentation of the Rose Scene and in the final Trio and Duet. The many minor solo parts are nicely done. Special mention needs to be made of Elisabeth Wilke as the Italian schemer, Annina.
The production has lavish sets, props and costumes that are hard to pinpoint as to era. I kept thinking they were meant to be roughly contemporary with the opera's première in 1911, but there are a few anachronisms such as the flash-cube camera which surely can't be from earlier than the 1950s. None of this is distracting, however, and the stage direction by Uwe Eric Laufenberg is effective as well as traditional (a plus in my book). His handling of the huge cast in the levée scene is skillful as well as being hilarious. Lighting is effective without calling attention to itself.
Videography, as directed for this DVD by Eji Yoshida, is clear and ungimmicky. There are many close-ups of singers but they are never awkward or inapt. There is more than the usual amount of stage noise but it is easily ignored. The comedic elements are effectively emphasized, yet the dramatic moments, such as the Marschallin's graceful release of Octavian in the final scene, are done without schmaltz.
For a modern filming of a production of this most popular of Strauss's operas this DVD is, in my judgment, one to consider. There are, of course, classic Rosenkavalier DVDs to be had -- with Marschallins such as Kiri te Kanawa, Gwyneth Jones and Felicity Lott -- but they all begin to show their age.
2 DVDs; Running time: 212mins; Format: NTSC - 16:9; Sound: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1; Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese; Region code: 0 (worldwide)
On the edge of greatness
Pekinman | Illinois | 12/21/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Here's another case of close (to greatness) but no cigar. This often happens in filmed versions of opera, usually, these days, due to the ridiculousness of the director/producer's konzept. In the case of this Der Rosenkavalier from the forces of the Dresden State Opera on a visit to Japan, it is not the production that defeats greatness but the casting of one of the vital singers. Fortunately that singer is not the Marschallin or Oktavian, but of almost equal importance, the Sophie.
Mori Maki may have been a courteous concession to their Japanese hosts but the Dresden State Opera would have been wiser to have cast a more experienced singer in the part. Ms Maki is charming, however, and she has a pleasant voice with all the notes, alas that they are largely inaudible. She also is no actress. She bounces around the stage with a great big toothy smile on her face alternating with a childishly stagey petulance when Baron Ochs offends her innocent sensibilities, swinging a very large and annoying ponytail around all the while. It's very shallow, elementary stuff and is not satisfying, especially as she is in the presence of 4 great German singers who have made specialties of their roles all over Europe.
Anne Schwanewilms is the best Marschallin on film. Her acting, facial, bodily and vocally, is of a piece and she makes this complicated character come fully to life. She receives little help from the production as it is another one of those Rosenkavalier shows that falls into the category of what I now call 'the little black dress' genre of Straussian opera.
The action has been removed (yet again) from the 18th century Viennese salon, ala the Empress Marie Therese, to another mid-20th century Ruritanian kingdom that exists in an alternative universe; Wernicke did the same thing to the Baden-Baden production conducted by Thielemann and glittered up by Renée Fleming. Uwe Eric Laufenberg, the director, has kept all the relevant bits in but has modernized the society these creatures exist within. The von Faninals live in what appears to be the marble and red velvet lobby of a Ritz Hotel in old Savoy. The staging is excellent and the action during the overtures of each act is humorous and cleverly explanatory; the lighting is spectacular, the costumes are just okay.
There is something of the Chocolate Soldier about Oktavian's powder blue uniform which puts him out of sync with the moderne sets and costumes around him. But he is joined by Baron Och's band of merry morons in their lederhosen in being out of place from the Marschallin's black sheath chic. Sophie is dressed like a 15 year old school girl, not inapposite but not very effective either. Ms Maki's deficiencies (beyond the tossing ponytail and the toothy sunniness of her nature) kills her scenes with Vondung's ardent Oktavian stone dead. Sophie's costuming being the final pall on the situation. Elisabeth Wilke's Annina steals Act two away from everyone, which has to be a first in this opera. In fact, Ms Wilke, a good house mezzo in Dresden who has made recordings in small roles, receives the loudest, wildest ovation of all from the Japanese audience. Odd, really, until I remembered how Japanese homosexuals used to think that Walter Brennan was hot stuff.
All in all Uwe Eric Laufenberg (stage director) has done a credible job with the story. His first act is the most successful. There is also a great deal of wit that will pass you by if you aren't paying attention. Fortunately it's easy to pay attention because the singers in Act 1 are the best of the current lot of filmed singers in this particular opera. Anke Vondung is a superb Oktavian. A very subtle actress, like Schwanewilms, she looks every inch the swaggering young man and is also hilarious as Mariandl staggering around like a guy in high heels, which he is.
Kurt Rydl wobbles but his wobbling is almost an asset to his very funny performance as Ochs. He's got the notes and he's never strained, he just wobbles sometimes, almost to Cowardly Lion dimensions of wobbling. But he's a great comedian and is one of the best Ochses I've seen on film. He's certainly more effective than Franz Hawlata on both the Bychkov and Thielemann films of this work. He can't compete with Kurt Moll for Kleiber 2 (who can?) but he's the most convincing Ochs after Moll's.
Fabio Luisi has been quietly doing wonderful, steady work for almost 15 years. He's just finishing a notably successful stint with the Dresden Staatskapelle and this film is a testament to his outstanding years there. He is a great conductor and he is showing more and more how adept he is at 19th century German romanticism. He gets more out of the great moments in this film than does Thielemann at Baden-Baden and Bychkov with his Viennese forces. Only Kleiber, on film, surpasses Luisi in his Way with this difficult to conduct score.
There is no comparison between Anne Schwanewilmses Marschallin and the vain, smug effort turned in by Renée Fleming for Thielemann. There was much that was good about that film but Fleming is so fake and annoying that I gave the film away to a friend who is a die-hard Flemming; he loves it. I'm glad. I'll take this deeply moving performance by Schwanewilms and Vondung any time, in spite of the inferior Sophie, who isn't exactly bad, she is just way out of her league.
I place this film behind both traditional Carlos Kleiber productions and the slightly modernized Bychkov/Robert Carsen production. But I will watch this Der Rosenkavalier again and again for Schwanewilms, Vondung and Luisi.
Highly recommended to all lovers of Strauss and especially 'Der Rosenkavalier'."