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"First of all, I have compared this new DVD release with the old LD release. The picture quality has been improved with sharper image and fuller color. The audio part now contains LPCM (CD quality, same as in LD) and dts5.1 surround. I use dts5.1 surround and it gives a very natural sound stage and greater presence than listening to the LD release. The DVD prodcution quality is first rate, thanks to Universal Music's new company high standards for DVD production. I hope the other companies, especially Kultur and VAI can learn something here.Now go to the performance. Sir Georg Solti has made a name for his Richard Strauss opera recordings in the classical music world. And in my opinion, Die Frau ohne Schatten is among his best! His great command of the unique and sometimes bizarre orchestral color in this opera gives it an everlasting charm. In several orchestral interludes (during scene change), Sir Georg keeps the tension of the drama very well. And Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra responds with rich string and woodwind colors.The staging is magical. Changes of scenes are seamless and each scene stage decoration is done with very good taste and elaboration.For the soloists, I think Eva Marton is the greatest star in the production. Her effortless vocal skill rides above thick orchestral sound and pierce through it clearly. She seems to have endless power. It's not raw power, but power with beauty. Her powerful voice suits this commanding woman role (the dyer's wife) perfectly. And Marton's acting is a delight to watch, as in many other operas. Marjana Lipovsek as the nurse is another surprise and star in the production. Both singing and acting are first rate. Cheryl Studer as the empress (the woman with no shadow) demonstrates her sweet voice as in 1992. Her decline on stage in later years is really a pity. Robert Hale as Barak (the dyer) and Thomas Moser as the emperor are also very well casted. I don't find a weak major role in this production.I wholehearted recommend this DVD to people who love operas."
Delightful production, overall success.
Plaza Marcelino | Caracas Venezuela | 06/16/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the same year this live performance was recorded, during the summer Salzburg Festival, Decca released Sir Georg's studio-recorded version, which, as was the case with Sawallisch's for EMI of some years before, was note-complete but shows a cast altogether different from the one hired for him by the Salzburg Festival. Solti had acquiesced to the usual theatre cuts for his series of performances for Covent Garden during the 1960's, but later on insisted in presenting the work complete, whether for the public or in the studio, so we may presume this performance is complete, although it is neither so advised in the booklet nor could I check it with a score. The point is important because one of the key parts, that of The Nurse, has been cut almost from the work's first performances some eighty years ago, especially in the last act, on grounds of its fearsome difficulty ("those passages are unsingable" was the term coined by some of the singers during Strauss's time), but this performance shows the unnecessariness of such cutting the rôle as taken by Marjana Lipovsek, a singer whose untimely death one regrets daily. It is the crown jewel of the set, a true performance to serve as a reference for many years to come, fabulously sung and supremely well acted. Studer is very good as The Empress, singing beautifully if rather wanting in the acting side. Strauss gave this character some of his most inspired pages ever and Studer, her voice soaring majestically above the vast Salzburg venue, acquits herself with top honours. Moser proves a handsome Emperor, slightly light-voiced for the rôle perhaps, but is very effective, looking every inch the part (Solti used Plácido Domingo in his studio recording referred to above). The Barak character, the Emperor's human counterpart, is taken here by Robert Hale, whose voice was perhaps past its prime by 1992 but he none the less was still able to portray the dyer quite well (some older readers may refer to Walter Berry's impersonation, preserved on disc but better still if they were lucky enough to catch him live, but they will be surprised by Hale's success). And now to Bark's Wife, the Empress's human counterpart and taken here by Eva Marton: by 1992 her voice had deteriorated significantly and her impersonation of the part, no matter how passionate and well acted, is marred by a very serious wobble and proves the set's minus side (and its missing the 5th star in my rating, which the set would have otherwise deserved). The supporting parts are very affective, no less so Andrea Rost as the Falcon. Solti conducts with his customary nervousness and the Vienna Philharmonic play like gods, they do show they have this music in their bones, having played the score more times (one hesitates to use the term "more often" in an opera so seldomly played) than any other ensemble.The Friedrich production, with handsome sets by Rolf Glittenberg that effectively convey the parallel fantasy and human planes where the action develops is fascinating to watch, the sound has been very vividly caught by the joint team of ORF (Austrian Public Radio & TV) and Decca, and visual production for home viewing is sensitive and unobtrusive, allowing you to form a wholesome picture of the actual Salzburg proceedings of a decade ago."
Thoroughly inspiring performance of magical,fairytale opera.
"The negative criticisms of some previous reviewers notwithstanding, this is a fantastic performance of a wondrous, magical opera, the last and perhaps best collaboration between Hugo von Hoffmannstahl and Richard Strauss. Here the composer, surprisingly, returns to his earlier style (e.g. Salome, Elektra) with a huge orchestra and vast volume of sound, but at the same time combines it with quiet, chamber music sections. The overall effect is a balance between the two and the work remains fascinating and enchanting in spite of its length. The score is, of course, not expected to be fully comprehended at first hearing, but repeated listening will bring discovery and lots of enjoyment. It is a great gift of technology today, the DVD, that such a production can be accessible to the public. To begin with: Solti the conductor. It is quite obvious to anyone by now that he was one of the two greatest conductors (Karajan the other) of the latter half of the 20th century. Here we witness his greatness by watching him conduct, his intense concentration, his precise and elegant baton handling, his finger and eye movements giving almost imperceptible clues to his orchestra. He creates incredible orchestral effects with an economy of movements thereby preserving his energy (after all, he was over 75 years old at the time). Just watch him conduct the Interlude, the Descent onto Earth, in Act. I., (reminiscent of similar passage in the Rheingold), so exciting it is that it will hold you breathless. The production itself is visually stunning with inspired set designs, strong images and beautiful colours - a feast to the eye. The principals are to varying degrees quite exceptional. Eva Marton, the Hungarian born soprano is thoroughly inspired in the monstrously difficult role of Barak's wife although her voice is no longer in its prime. Her acting is uninhibited and riveting. Cheryl Studer, a highly accomplished dramatic soprano is also inspired and very sympathetic as the Empress. But Marjana Lipovsek (who, contrary to a previous reviewer, is very much alive!) is the most outstanding female singer in the production, as the Nurse. Robert Hale, as Barak, creates a completely believable character and grows emotionally as the opera progresses. Even his voice gets stronger and stronger. Thomas Moser as the Emperor, unfortunately, is no match for Placido Domingo as his voice is comparatively under powered. Bryn Terfel has a stentorian voice, promising a great career for him in years to come. It has to be mentioned that the previously released CD set on Decca, also with Solti, has marginally better singers , but I would not for a moment hesitate to get the DVD if you want to see this opera. It is also more economical: 2 DVD's vs. 3 CD's. The set is neatly presented, booklet included. Interactive menus with a great many Decca DVD previews are available. A "must have" for all Strauss lovers. "
siljauster_hochter | Sacremento, USA | 01/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Not only is is the only Die Frau Ohne Schatten available on DVD, it is absolutely complete!! There are no cuts whatsoever. This really puts CD sets like Sinopoli to shame since they could have just patched in the cut sections from the 'live' performance. We owe it to Solti to show the world that Strauss' Die Frau can be performed uncut (unlike say Elektra which probably could not since Elektra is too taxing a role).A great supplement to Solti's even better CD performance featuring Domingo, Behnrens, Varady and Van Dam."
Straussian opera at its best!
Pierre Gouin | Montréal | 08/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I agree completely with Mr. Marcelino Plaza's (Caracas) detailed review on this marvelous opera. However, Mr Plaza should not worry about cuts in the Nurse part «Solti... insisted in presenting the work complete, whether for the public or in the studio, so we may presume this performance is complete, although it is neither so advised in the booklet nor could I check it with a score. »
Actually, the score IS complete and this is written in the booklet (p. 16) included with the 2 DVDs."