Worthy production of an important masterpiece
Y.P. | Mount Messiaen, Utah | 03/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"On the music performance: This is a sweeping performance. The conductor Daniele Gatti is well versed in verismo, and it shows. The orchestra of Wiener Staatsoper is most responsive to the demanding score. Both Grundheber as Moses and Moser as Aron seize every possibility for lyrical expression. The double choruses carry out the mission impossible by singing almost all notes in pitch. (If you have ever sung a 12-tone music, then you'd understand what I mean.) Overall, it is quite satisfying.
There are only minor reservations I have on the musical performance. The orchestral playing emphasizes the emotional sweep rather than the clarity of the polyphony linear structure. It's therefore not as easy to hear every note as in Pierre Boulez's CD set, a much cooler (and leaner) performance with razor-sharp precision. Thomas Moser's Aron is quite good, but there are more than one passage where his voice shows strain.
On the stage production: If you are reading this, you probably already know that Schoenberg's stage directions are absurdly unrealizable. (And the late composer admitted as such!) For example, the biblical miracles are to be performed on stage, so are the Four Naked Virgins copulating with the Golden Calf. The stage director Nickler takes a practical approach. TV monitors show the miracles in the first act, while presenting a backdrop for the Orgy Scene from the second act. The Golden Calf is presented as 3 Golden Words "ICH BIN GOTT" (I am God.)
Personally, I like the production of the first act, but find the second act not as satisfactory. The "consumer materialism" presentation did not capture my imagination too well, and it seems to depart from Schoenberg's stage direction a little too far for my taste.
There is a bonus pre-performance interview for about 24 minutes in Disc 2, which is recommended to watch PRIOR to the performance.
Overall, I don't think this will be a landmark performance. It is, however, a worthy production of an important masterpiece."
Exciting production,one you will not forget
scarecrow | Chicago, Illinois United States | 08/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I recall Franz Grundheber with Abbado Conducting at Vienna State Opera as this production, He inflicts a ponderous soul immediately while having strains of the intellectualism and an earthy quality all simultaneously; All the roles are strong and focused herein: The enormous Thomas Moser, Tenor, mellifuous, flowery,intokicating timbres plays Aaron were wonderful,overwhelmingly persuasive, a communicator but he has something in the background of his persona not easily seen;perhaps the Gold portion of the opera,latter, where Gold dominates the stage:Aaron now in a Gold pitchman jacket;, a maker of images with Words only, Words in-and-of-themselves come to assume a primary role in this work, We see the chorus of Men and Women writing with white chalk on a massive stagebackdrop blackboard ICH. "I", God told Moses when he was asked "What is your name??", God replied "I Am That I Am" ICH BIN GOTT,(Exodus) is later also chalked on the board, and finally when the indivisible God seems too distant in the future,as a Utopia The metaphor for the Golden Calf ICH BIN GOTT, GOTT ICH BIN, is inscribed in large gold letters,and tyhen made into large 7-foot Letters; These letters are then fornicated on-with,in the company of four Blonde Bimbos,also in Gold party dresses only a tad duller gold: who then make love to other women and men, also deprived, depraved of existence without God, without Commandments, without meaningful directions.
This production is very compact, it's trajectory of simple yet signifying colours places the work in its context:it does the most with the least in Light; a source of all wealth for the earth; Light has a subtle way of utilizing colours for meanings-signifiers like when the Israelite masses done their black/heavy oppresive coats of exile, for brighter simply White Shirts, and White underwear. Women as well in white satin slips, one piece items.
If you follow the scholarship on the subject; Moses and Aaron and the paradigms associated with this biblical canon, there are some intellectuals/academia who cannot see Schoenberg's work as convincing,or useful(To whom?) and a direct contradiction to other Jewish Bible interpretations. These arguments are eternal and will remain forever eternal and unresolved. Schoenberg's subject is quite ambitious, chosing to utilize his newly discovered 12-Tone language pinned up to the massive structural challenges of this dramatic opera-fragment. It really functions as an Opera, for Moses and Aaron are not as prominent of figures as you may think, the masses here have extraordinary roles and functions much mirrors contemporary society,points scholars seem to miss,soloists also emerging from the ranks,Elders, and Tribe Leaders, Everyone is a person so everyone (not Moses or Aaron however) carry photos of themselves, looking/examining their photos from time to time,sthe signifier here is subjectivity, (What can Moses do for me that I cannot already do for myself)subjectivity then is what we all need to prosper;but there is also Dissent in the ranks, Elders coaching the populace,in the loss of faith,(one Elder looked like Irvine Arditti) the debaucheries, murders, suicides, fornications that occur are well crafted, we see animals being slaughtered, the throats cut open gushing blood,surgeries, and mild forms of porn, very mild.
Musical construction here within this context cannot be arbitrary in fact every measure of music every rhytmic structure must have a purpose in this work, nothing to suggest arbitrary melodies or orchestral accompaniment;and extra=programmatic misconceptions are not contemplated,But all these featuresare what in fact happens in view of many scholars..Schoenberg was not consistent, misunderstood the Jewish Bible and the globe, came to Judaism late in life:primarily academic views; Purity of procedure in music composition has a cleansing aspect as well.This is one of the paradigm Schoenberg dealt. His newly found dodecaphonic language now would be put to its ultimate test.In world view Schoenberg, so the argument goes, favored an authoritarianism, (as Freud on the identical subject), this within the torturous period of Nazi ascent to power.They saw the figure of Moses as the law-giver, the Warrior, the Liberator;(and this was ultimatly The USA in WW2 who was the savior of all the above)Schoenberg however tried to do the impossible set the "Absolute" to music to make it Real.And to some extent he succeeded. The task was more than one genius in music alone could handle in that the work was left unfinished, but then was there a possible way to end the work?, I think M & A functions best within its unfinished reality, more then in tune with real reality."
Loge | Argentina | 07/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an interesting opera, and this is the first video recording of it, at least that I know. It is rather hard for ears not familiar with this kind of music.
The original stage director Wily decker got ill, and Reto Nickler took charge of the production. He was forced to integrate his own concept into an already set design, and I think we can notice it...
The video and sound quality are excellent, and so are the cast, orquestra and chorus. Good work in a most difficult opera.
The production has some interesting things, and others not so, buy it worth the money. Within the bonus is an interview with the singers and stage director, and the 3º unfinished act, as a text gallery. It is a live recording from the Vienna State Opera made in 2006.
For lovers of modern works.
We are All the Children of Israel...
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 12/04/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"... at least by analogy, extrapolation, or allegory. Witness the conviction held by both the Hanoverians and the Jacobites in England, when Handel was writing "Saul" and "Esther," that they were the new Chosen People, each righteously entitled to exterminate the other. I take Arnold Schönberg's single opera "Moses and Aron" to be more an allegory of Humanity, in its folly unready to surrender the old securities of revealed religion or to accept the unsensuous consolations of modern relativism. One of the rewards of relativism, of course, is that YOU can formulate your own interpretation of this most philosophical of all operas.
It's widely maintained that Aron and Moses was never finished, that Schönberg intended a third act but couldn't wrap it up. Personally, I find the ending as staged here by the Vienna State Opera very satisfactory. Moses sitting alone in desolation on the stage, murmuring about his failure to express the inexpressible, to wring finite meaning out of infinity.
My friend from Utah!, Y.P., has scooped me in his modest objections to the staging. The music has to be strong to pin my eyes and ears to a TV screen for 110 minutes, with all the clumsy shuffling! So much shoving and lurching, and yet so static! The Slovak Philharmonic Chorus needs a serious workshop in body awareness. And I was really looking forward to the four naked hussies copulating with the Golden Calf! Luckily the music is strong - very strong, even if the orchestra lacked transparency - and unique. The pairing of a speaking actor, Moses, and a singing actor, Aron, orating simultaneously is electrifying. Thomas Moser sings his role of Aron with just enough diffident insecurity and strain to sound like Yahweh's second fiddle.
Another level of allegory: Schönberg certainly considered himself the Moses of music, leading the orchestra out of bondage to late classical/romantic tonal chromaticism into the Promised Land of serialism. How shocking to find that I'm no longer shocked. This opera and Berg's Violin Concerto, to my ears, are the most affective and commodious of all twelve-tone compositions.
Perhaps a more polished CD performance would satisfy many Schönberg devotees, but I like opera on DVD. Even the sight of a bunch of stodgy Slovaks in black suits and yarmulkas shaped like fezes clumping about on stage helps me shut out other sounds and thoughts."