Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Walter Felsenstein Edition - Fidelio Don Giovanni Marriage of Figaro Cunning Little Vixen Otello Tales of Hoffmann Ritter Blaubart|
Actors: Vaclav Neumann, Fritz Lehmann, Kurt Masur, Karl-Fritz Voigtmann, Zdenek Kosler
Director: Walter Felsenstein
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
Original manuscripts of Walter Felsenstein, Original staging piano reductions with audio examples, Drafts of the stage design, figurines, sketches & drawings, Historical audio material with speeches & interviews with Walte... more »
Mostly worth the price but not entirely
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 06/28/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In May 2008, The New York Times printed a long review of a set of ArtHaus Musik DVDs titled "Walter Felsenstein Edition." Felsenstein is a name familiar only to students interested in filmed operas, and seven of his films are included in this 12-disc collection.
Only one is a film in the strict sense, Beethoven's "Fidelio" (1956), reduced to 1.5 hours and shot in black and white with only some of the persons on screen actually singing. Janacek's "The Cunning Little Vixen" (1965) is a black and white telecast with a somewhat fuzzy picture. (These two are included on single DVDs, the rest take up two discs each.) Two of them are filmed versions of stage performances: Mozart's "Don Giovanni" (1966, in black and white) and "The Marriage of Figaro" (1976). The remaining three were filmed in a studio to be shown on television: Offenbach's "Blue Beard" (1973) and "Tales of Hoffmann" (1970), and Verdi's "Otello" (1969). Note: they are all sung in a German text.
Since Felsenstein's little theater, The Berlin Comic Opera, could not afford high-salaried stars, he built up his own little troupe and most of them are quite good. For reasons of space, I will omit their names in this report. What the Times reporter left out were some negative aspects, which I cannot in honesty pass over.
First, this set costs a bundle. The Times priced it anywhere between $350 and $500, and Amazon.com is asking about $450. The discs are not in DVD cases but held by buttons on seven large cards that contain printed notes about each opera. This makes them very awkward to store--and I had to put them into empty jewel cases so they would fit in with other DVDs.
Four of the operas are lip-synched, at times obviously so. And some viewers might be turned off by six of the works being presented in German rather than in the original languages.
There is an elaborate book included with all sorts of photos, drawings, background notes and comments by Felsenstein about each of the works. Half of the book is in German, the other half in English translation. There is also a packet of reproductions of Felsenstein's set and costume designs and production notes, none of which are very interesting. So even putting the values of those items at (say) $50, that is still over $30 per DVD.
Two discs are devoted to the two Offenbach operas and "Otello." The operas themselves occupy a single disc, leaving a somewhat scanty amount of bonus material on the second disc, not quite enough to justify the cost. The two Mozart operas are spread over two discs, each disc having extra material, the best of which consists of rehearsal scenes for the "Don Giovanni" production. A printed discussion of what really happened to Dona Anna during the overture has no place on a video disc.
But putting cost aside, the question remains if the product itself is worth watching. Considering the historical value of these films, yes! As examples of Felsenstein's goal to have his cast give realistic accounts of their characters, yes again. On the other hand, other aspects of the films themselves are of variable quality.
The best is probably the "Vixen." It is imaginatively staged and the Vixen is wonderfully sung and acted. I would put the "Figaro" as second best, with "Don Giovanni" a close runner-up. "Blue Beard" is a delight, except for the very slowly paced dialogue in some scenes. "Hoffmann" is given in an adaptation of its original Opera Comique version with lots of dialogue and much of the familiar score missing. "Fidelio" seems awkwardly edited; and the realistic scenery works against the singing. In fact, the famous prisoners' chorus is made absurd when none of the prisoners on the screen are seen to be singing at all!
The worst of the lot is "Otello." Iago seems to act in fits and starts. The chorus' look of horror when Otello repulses Desdemona in the third act was obviously filmed at a different time, so glaringly obvious is their posing with frozen expressions.
To sum up. For lovers of opera and especially of vintage opera on film, the set as a whole is definitely worth it, at a reasonable price. (I doubt if ArtHaus will issue any of them as separate sets.) I could suggest, if I may, what a wonderful gift this would make for a special occasion---graduation, housewarming, wedding---to music lovers.
R. Wood | Toronto, Canada | 07/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The box of operas produced and directed by Felsenstein is indeed a revelation. It's a pity the Janacek is not in color, and I can't get enthusiastic about Offenbach, but The Otello, the Figaro, the Fidelio (though the last is also black and white) are marvellous. What a pity that nowadays nowadays we seem to get only versions of productions, not actual, thought-through, beautifully directed FILMS!."
Now Being Released Separately
Mark E. Herriott | North Bend, WA | 05/14/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"When this set first came out, I really wanted to buy it. However the initial price of around $400 was way too steep and I was really only interested in Ritter Blaubart and Tales of Hoffman. Now, they're releasing the films individually. I guess they discovered that not everyone wanted to send $300-$400 at one time for possibly several movies they may not want. FYI: if you're looking for Tales of Hoffman, it's actual title is Hoffman's Erzahlungen. You won't find otherwise. I haven't received Hoffman's Erzahlungen yet, but Ritter Blaubart is total enjoyment and everyone is perfect in their roles. I gave the set only two stars, as it's really not the best value for your money."