TDK presents a DVD release of Weber?s masterpiece Der Freischütz in a production by the legendary director Ruth Berghaus. Chorus and orchestra of the Zurich opera are conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, universally celebrat... more »ed for the structural transparency of his interpretations, his intellectual penetration and his emotional understanding of both music and opera plot. An all-star cast made this production a highly memorable event, which was hailed by international music critics as a reawakening of this romantic opera by Carl Maria von Weber (1786- 1826). An outstanding cast of singers - all of the first rank in the German mode - brings the characters in Johann Friedrich Kind?s story to life. Picture Format: 16:9 ? Sound Format: LPCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1« less
Good musical performance marred by Eurotrash production
AlexN963 | New York City | 05/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Granted, this is an opera that is hard to stage, but nevertheless, there certainly must be better ways to do it than this eyesore staging. Furthermore, in the scene where Kaspar forges the magic bullets, the enclosed synopsis reads "increasingly strange apparitions occur: the ghost of Max's mother, warning him away; animals that spit fire; a hurricane trampling horses; wheels of fire; then finally, Samuel himself." Now, this all sounds very fascinating, but instead of all that good stuff, we see a bunch of figures in black jumpsuits wiggling their arms and legs, and crawling on a steeply slanted ramp. This is all very unfortunate because there are few staged productions of this opera outside of Germany, and I would have preferred to see the romantic essence of it, which Weber had intended. Zurich could have done better than this.
Aside from that, this set is musically excellent. Matti Salminen is one of my favorite singers and I got this set because of him; he does not disappoint. He boasts a HUGE, black bass voice which is especially rich in the low extreme. We also get a sense of how flexible his voice is. Furthermore, his acting is more inspired than anyone else in the cast. Peter Seiffert, who is one of the best heldentenors these days, also gives a convincing performance. Inga Neilsen, as Agathe, sings pleasantly but is rather uninvolved. Malin Hertelius is very good as Annchen. The Zurich Opera orchestra plays brilliantly under Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
I should give three stars, but I will add an extra star for Salminen's contributions. If you like his other villain roles such as Hagen, get this for him. "
Close, but no cigar
Mr John Haueisen | WORTHINGTON, OHIO United States | 11/20/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Much as Tosca succeeds best when the character Scarpia exudes evil, Der Freischutz needs a malevolent Kaspar. Here, Matti Salminen, with great acting and singing, never gives you a moment's doubt of his connection to the powers of darkness.
Whatever you have heard of this opera, it deals with humanity, and our basic fears. The hunter/marksman, Max, is insecure, worrying about his ability to do his job; about losing his grip. His fiancee, Agathe, has concerns about her upcoming marriage. She's tried to be a good girl; will Max win her; will she be happy?
Malin Hartelius, as Annchen, provides Agathe with a compassionate friend, and her singing and movement brighten scenes often overlooked.
The music is beautifully performed, as would be expected from conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
The downside is that this is the best Freischutz available, but it could have been so much better, simply by sticking closer to the original setting. With minimalist staging and unimaginative costuming, the Zurich Opera House, like so many others trying to "be different," has failed to give us a genuine, straightforward production of Weber's spooky tale."
Only for Someone Who Enjoys Pretentious Eurotrash
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 11/15/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"'Der Freischütz' has not fared well on video even though three versions are now available. The Stuttgart production is simply awful--that is the production that brought us a giant masturbating bunny. The Hamburg production is minimalist with all kinds of silly stage action to fill the space and time. This production from the Zurich Opera is also minimalist with stage direction by Ruth Berghaus and set design by Hartmut Meyer. The sets are not offensive, but they are certainly strange. The unchanging back of the stage is a bilious sulfuric yellowish green. In front of that are frequently changing two-dimensional hard-edged geometric shapes that don't really portray anything realistic at all. In the Wolf's Glen scene there is a part of the scene that is so severely raked that the actors have to move on all fours to go upstage. I'm not making this up! (And each of the seven magic bullets is presented to Kaspar by one of seven mimes in jet-black jumpsuits who then move up the raked stage in slow motion; they looked to me like a line of black ants. Why?) When Max enters from the back and moves downstage while singing one fears he will fall and break his neck. (By the way, the English subtitles uniformly refer to the Wolf's Glen as the 'Wolf's Ravine.' Didn't the translator know about 150 years of tradition on the English-speaking stage? Ah well.) Berghaus has peopled the stage with chorus and mimes in black overcoats (fedoras in the first act, black schmattas in Act III) who move ceaselessly all over the stage to no discernible purpose; chorus and principals spend an unusual amount of time crawling or lying on the stage. And there is the seemingly obligatory lascivious frottage featuring several pairs of chorus members. There are stereotyped movements of the people in black that sometimes remind me of Mike Myers's recurring satirical Saturday Night Live sketch featuring 'Dieter' and his German TV show, 'Sprockets.'
Musically things are better. With the exception of an acidulous- and weak-voiced Agathe (admittedly a big drawback, considering that she sings the big hit aria from this opera, 'Leise, leise' in Act II) the principals are good. Most outstanding (in spite of his Addams Family makeup) is huge-voiced basso Matti Salminen as Kaspar. Peter Seiffert is a stout-voiced Max (and he does manage not to slide into the orchestra pit in the raked Wolf's Glen set). The Ännchen of Malin Hartelius (a singer previously unknown to me) is stellar. One also needs to single out the effective singing of Werner Gröschel as Kuno.
The conductor in complete control of the musical presentation is the usually reliable and here quite wonderful Nikolaus Harnoncourt. His orchestra plays fabulously. One touch is that the brass appear to be playing period instruments although the rest of the orchestra is not. This is undoubtedly a choice of Harnoncourt's based on the importance of the brass in this music--there are hunting horns all over the score, of course, and they are smartly managed by the period horns and trombones.
Bottom line: This is not a production I would recommend, and especially not to anyone coming to this opera for the first time. I imagine that Central European audiences, who have seen many productions of this classic, can accept this kind of stylization in one of their favorites. But outside that ambit 'Freischütz' is not produced all that much and much of the staging is simply puzzling, if not downright irritating.
In spite of the musical values here, I cannot recommend this 2 DVD set.
Excellent Cast in a Horrible Production
R. Olsavicky | Butler, Pa. USA | 05/31/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Do yourself a favor skip this current DVD offering and get the excellent ARTHAUS MUSIC DVD with Gottlob Frick, Arlene Saunders and an excellent cast in a great traditional (in the best sense of the word) production."
WORTHLESS EUROTRASH BADLY RECORDED (only for those looking f
Jesse Knight | woburn ma usa | 09/28/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"THIS DVD HAS RETURNED ON ANOTHER LABEL, JAN 2010.
This is not a full review. I have waited until I obtained excellent audio gear that tested out perfectly on 20 DVDs before writing this. In addition to a production that required the singers to humiliate themselves, the audio is bad. 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. Zurich seems to have cured their audio problems in 2000.
This production,and it's bad audio engineering, is a waste of a fantastic cast. This is the only DVD of Hartelius at Zurich Opera that I regret buying. It is possible that a DVD ,yet to be released, of a 1968 production will at least give us a chance to see a good staging. Sound and picture quality may not be good due to age. There is always the Carlos Kleiber CD on DGG."