EUROTRASH PRODUCTION RETURNS
Jesse Knight | woburn ma usa | 01/20/2010
(1 out of 5 stars)
"NEW DVD BRAND, SAME PERFORMANCE
(IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE SOUND ISSUE HAS BEEN IMPROVED. THIS REVIEW IS BASED ON THE FIRST ISSUE ON TDK)
During the Wolf Glen the sound fades away. It is possible that Harnoncourt directed the orchestra to fade gradually during the Wolf Glen, but I think it is more likely the result of how the orchestral/vocal balance was mixed. This recording gives a strong sense of the voices and orchestra being in separate venues. By 1999, most sound engineers were aware of the need to preserve dynamic relationships over time, so the climax comes in the right place. Compression is not in itself a big problem here. Siegfried from the Met and a Lohengrin from Bayreuth, have no serious compression issues, or level shifts over time,despite being recorded in 1990. Zurich seems to have cured their audio problems in 2000, better late than never. The carlos Kleiber CD is a much better sounding recording, despite it's analog origin.
NOW FOR WHAT CANNOT BE FIXED:
This is a dark gloomy staging that at first seems to be trying to express something profound. On repeated viewing what emerges in my opinion is that the characters are trapped in a rigid society that demands conformity. Max is played as a bookish loner. So far so good. Max sings while waist deep in a pit, is this an attempt to suggest that he is halfway to hell? When Agatha appears in a drab yellow dress with Annchen in a black dress from a halloween party shop, things go down hill. They are lying on the stage. When they stand up, there is a crude sex reference involving a rifle. Only the men are supposed to have guns. The trio, Agatha, Annchen and Max, is beautifully sung but the stage direction has Annchen walking back and forth, playing with a pair of scissors which I find very distracting. Malin Hartelius (Annchen) seems "boxed in" by the staging. I have watched all her DVDs, and regardless of what the stage director makes her do, she is able to do something interesting with it , except here and as Adele in the Salzburg production of Fledermaus (another disaster). In both cases she looks detached. I can only imagine the clever things she would do with Annchen if the production would allow some humor. Only Matti Salminen (Casper) gets a little of what he needs to be effective.
To me, the forest is a vital part of this opera along with Rusalka, Hansel und Gretel and Siegfried. There are no trees here, unless of course a sickly green backdrop counts as trees. Some how this strikes me as much worse than Carson's staging of Rusalka with an indoor pool, instead of a pond in the forest. At least Carson makes a water reference.
The Wolf Glen is two inclined planes on which the singers, and black clad apparitions, climb up on and slide down. One redeeming feature is the casting of the bullets using real fire.
In the end I feel that nothing of depth has been expressed in this attempt to put a Brechtian look on this opera.
Vocally this is a wonderful performance, but in my opinion this opera cannot be slowed down this much. Harnoncourt lets himself go along with the stage director in doing this, giving us more time to look at the ugly staging. Harnoncourt's "slow" is not an "interesting slow" such as some of Furtwaengler's performances. It's just boring. His conducting in Zurich's 2001 Return of Ulisse is wonderful, as is his Orlando Paladino of 2005, Hartelius really shines in these recordings.
Zurich has revived this production, so it still has a following in Europe where people are bored by years of traditional productions. In my opinion it is time for someone to stage this opera in a somewhat traditional way. Historically Freischutz is a valuable opera that follows Beethoven's Fidelio in the development of romantic opera and anticipates Der Fliegende Hollander by Wagner. As such, a series of DVDs that deconstruct this opera, are not helpful to Americans who have never seen it done as written.
Frankly, I prefer to use my imagination, rather than look at this mess, and listen to the Carlos Kleiber CD."
"he shoots, he almost scores!"
agent_odd | Okemos, MI | 09/09/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I've seen the several video productions of this work available to buy and the Stuttgart one comes closest to being traditional, but has some distracting oddities like the infamous masturbating bunny. Otherwise it's not too bad . In the linear notes included with this production, it is noted that the stage director, who died before this performance, was a controversial one. Indeed, the sets are of the geometric minimalist variety and really do nothing to enhance Weber's masterpiece. Actors are dressed very starkly and sometimes come out of doors in the floor, or stand in these holes to sing. There are inclined floors that extras crawl up during the conjuring sequence, and there are some interesting lighting and special effects during the Wolf's Glen scene. Harnoncourt, this production's conductor, knows this material well having recorded one of the finer audio versions of this work on Teldec. His conducting and the orchestra are very fine. The singing is pretty good too. The only singer that I am familiar with is Matti Salminen. I believe he had a role in 'Gotterdammerung,' of the Met's video recorded 'Ring' cycle. I did notice that the DTS audio track (As a funny side note: DTS typically has two volumes: loud and louder), normally very pure and crisp, is somewhat muffled, a matter of pinpoint taste, but I am an audiophile. I noticed that I didn't have to worry as much about "waking the neighbors" as it were. Choosing which video of this opera to buy is really a matter of personal taste, but overall this can be recommended. I liked it better than the murky staging out of Hamburg. I do eagerly anticipate that someone will really do this opera justice with a knockout staging. This frustration recalls that of my confusion that there isn't a decent video recording of Gounod's 'Faust,' one of the more popular operas of the 20th century. Oh well!"