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View Full Version : Das Opernglas – July/August, 2012, Issue Summary – Part II



MAuer
July 28th, 2012, 02:14 PM
http://www.opernglas.de/

This is a double issue and the summary is being presented in two parts.

Live Performance Reviews – Festivals

Salzburg Whitsun Festival

- Handel: Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Conductor: Giovanni Antonini
Orchestra: Il Giardino Armonico
Director: Moshe Leiser/Patrice Caurier
Cast: Andreas Scholl, Cecilia Bartoli, Philippe Jaroussky, Anne Sophie von Otter, Christophe Dumeaux, Jochen Kowalski, Peter Kálmán, Ruben Drole
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Outstanding, especially Bartoli and Jaroussky. Scholl needed time to warm up, had problems with the acoustics in the first act
Staging – Directors apparently couldn’t decide if this opera was going to be a comedy, or take a serious look for parallels with the current situation in the Mideast.

- Massenet: Cléopâtre (concert performance)
Conductor: Vladimir Fedoseyev
Orchestra: Mozarteum Orchestra
Cast: Sophie Koch, Ludovic Tézier, Sandrine Piau, Benjamin Bernheim
Reviewer’s evaluation: Excellent performance, with the biggest surprise being the young tenor Benjamin Bernheim, whose voice had a beautiful timbre and secure top.

- Rodion Shchedrin: Cleopatra and the Snake (cantata)
Conductor: Valery Gergiev
Orchestra: Mariinsky Orchestra
Cast: Mojca Erdmann, Cecilia Bartoli, Chulpan Khamatova (actress), Yevgeny Mironov (actor)
Reviewer’s evaluation: Erdmann did a splendid job replacing an indisposed Anna Netrebko at the eleventh hour. Bartoli decided to lend a helping hand to the evening by singing two Mozart arias (neither of which had anything to do with Cleopatra). But Gergiev led a very routine, unexciting performance.

Baden Baden Whitsun Festival

- Donizetti: L’Elisir d’Amore
Conductor: Pablo Heras-Casado
Orchestra: Balthasar Neumann Ensemble
Director: Rolando Villazon
Cast: Rolando Villazon, Miah Persson, Ildebrando d’Archangelo, Roman Trekel, Regula Mühlmann
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Conductor, orchestra, d’Archangelo, and Mühlmann outstanding. Villazon and Persson were very good, but not flawless. Trekel was disappointing.
Staging – Lots of clichés. Villazon provided some entertainment and the audience loved him, but his “concept” often overshot its target.

Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

- Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
Conductor: Zubin Mehta
Director: Eike Gramss
Cast: Angela Denoke, Caitlin Hulcup, Sylvia Schwartz, Kristinn Sigmundsson, Eike Wilm Schulte, Celso Albelo, Ingrid Kaiserfeld, Anna Maria Chiuri, Niklas Björling Rygert, Alexander Kaimbacher, Marcus Peltz
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – After a somewhat “coarse” sounding first act, Mehta conducted a satisfying performance. Among the cast, Denoke, Sigmundsson, and Schulte were the standouts. Hulcup and Schwartz acted well, but their singing wasn’t problem-free. Smaller roles were all well done.
Staging -- Excellent. Updated to the time when the opera was composed, this version paid attention to details in the characters’ interaction and was completely convincing.

- Silvia Colasanti: La Metamorfosi
Conductor: Marco Angius
Director: Pier’ Alli
Cast: Laura Catrani, Gabriella Sborgi, Robert Abbondanza, Tiziana Tramonti, Michael Leibundgut, Stefano Consolini, Daniele Zanfardino, Edoardo Lomazzi (actor), Piero Monti (actor)
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Well done; conductor, orchestra, and cast all gave committed performances to this new opera.
Staging -- Very effective – the librettist was also the stage director for this opera based on Kafka’s “Die Verwandlung” (The Transformation), in which a man is turned into a cockroach overnight.

Richard Wagner Festival, Wels

- Wagner: Parsifal
Conductor: Ralf Weikert
Orchestra: Slovakian Philharmonic
Director: Herbert Adler
Cast: Ian Storey, Reinhard Hagen, Hermine May, Jukka Rasilainen, Anton Kermidtchiev, Artur Korn
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Conductor and orchestra were excellent (if Weikert’s tempos were occasionally rather brisk). Hagen was the standout among the singers; all others were fine with the exception of Storey in the title role. Voice often sounded remarkably dull and he never sang freely.
Staging – Traditional, with Wagner’s instructions closely observed. Allows the audience to contemplate the questions raised by the composer, not the stage director.

Halle Handel Festival

- Handel: La Resurrezione
Conductor: Wolfgang Katschner
Orchestra: Die Lautten Compagney
Director: Kobie van Rensburg
Soloists: Jasmin Hörner, Susanne Ellen Kirchesch, Silvia Beltrami, James Elliott, Falko Hönisch
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Very good performances from all involved, with the exception of the tenor (Elliott), who sang with an attractive timbre but had trouble with the coloratura.
Staging -- “Less would have probably been more,” according to the reviewer. Some elements worked; many didn’t.

- Handel: Alcina
Conductor: Bernhard Forck
Orchestra: Handel Festival Orchestra
Director: Andrej Woron
Cast: Romelia Lichtenstein, Terry Wey, Ines Lex, Bettina Ranch, Andreas Karasiak, Ki-Hyun Park, Jeffrey Kim, Henry Valentin
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Very well done by all.
Staging -- Some inventive ideas, but far too much tinkering with Handel’s score (insertion of a loud drum scene not written by the composer for a voodoo ritual).

Lake Constance Festival

- Meyerbeer: L’Africaine (sung mostly in German translation)
Conductor: Tobias Schwenke (?)
Director: Jasmina Hadziahmetovic
Cast: Siggy Davis, Ingo Biermann, Catrin Kirchner, Wieland Lembke, Ralf Beckord
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Usually inadequate, with the possible exception of Lembke, though his baritone was still too lightweight for the role of Nélusko.
Staging – Probably worked better than the singing. Audience loved the whole thing.

Göttingen International Handel Festival

- Handel: Amadigi di Gaula
Conductor: Andrew Parrott
Orchestra: Göttingen Festival Orchestra
Director: Sigrid T’Hooft
Cast: Mareike Braun, Judith Gauthier, Stefanie True, Markéta Cukrova
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Excellent all around
Staging -- Well done, with appropriate Baroque stage gestures

- Handel: Esther (concert performance)
Conductor: Laurence Cummings
Orchestra: Göttingen Festival Orchestra
Soloists: Carolyn Sampson, Iestyn Davies, Njål Sparbo, Daniel Taylor, Sophie Junker
Reviewer’s evaluation: With one exception, a top class performance. (Taylor was “not up to this role’s challenges.”)

Johann Strauss Festival, Dresden

- Johann Strauss the Younger: Prince Methusalem
Conductor: Ernst Theiss
Orchestra: Dresden State Operetta Orchestra
Director: Andriana Altaras
Cast: Jana Frey, Jessica Glatte, Gerd Wiemer, Frank Ernst, Inka Lange
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Fine all around
Staging – Traditional; no problems

- Offenbach: The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein (concert performance)
Conductor: Ernst Theiss
Orchestra: Dresden State Operetta Orchestra
Cast: Elke Kottmair, Frank Ernst, Jeannette Oswald, Herbert G. Adami, Andreas Sauerzapf, Christian Grygas, Alfons (cabarettist)
Reviewer’s evaluation: A spirited, well-presented performance from all involved.

Live Performance Reviews

- Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur – Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona
Conductor: Maurizio Bernini
Director: David McVicar
Cast: Barbara Frittoli, Roberto Alagna, Juan Pons, Dolora Zajick, Francisco Vas, Giorgio Giuseppini, Marc Pujol
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Frittoli and Alagna were outstanding, Pons and Zajick not quite on their level (voices showing a little wear and tear). Other cast members were very good. Bernini’s conducting somewhat too restrained.
Staging – Wonderful (same as in the recent Decca DVD)

- Wagner: Siegfried – Bavarian State Opera, Munich
Conductor: Kent Nagano
Director: Andreas Kriegenburg
Cast: Lance Ryan, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, Thomas J. Mayer, Catherine Naglestad, Wolfgang Koch, Rafael Siwek, Jill Grove, Anna Virovlansky
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Naglestad, Ryan, Ablinger-Sperrhacke, Koch, and Virovlansky were all outstanding. Mayer had problems with his top, which despite his forcing, had insufficient carrying power. Siwek was a very good Fafner, Grove a disappointing Erda. Nagano’s conducting was meticulous but lacking any sense of drama.
Staging – Very effective in the final Siegfried-Brünnhilde scene, but overshot the mark elsewhere. Nonetheless, the audience liked it.

Bellini: I Capuleti e I Montecchi – Bavarian State Opera, Munich
Conductor: Yves Abel
Director: Vincent Broussard
Cast: Anna Netrebko, Vesselina Kasarova, Dimitri Pittas, Ante Jerkunica
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Netrebko an absolute standout, with Kasarova not far behind. Other cast members were respectable, and Abel’s conducting very fine.
Staging – Apparently an excuse to parade the cast in Christian Lacroix’s 19th century couture costumes.

Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia – Bavarian State Opera, Munich
Conductor: Antonello Allemandi
Director: Production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Cast: Joyce Di Donato, Lawrence Brownlee, Nikolay Borchev, Alessandro Corbelli, Shen Yang, Eri Nakamura, Paola Giardina
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Superb in all respects, with Di Donato’s Angelica “an event.”
Staging – A wonderful sprucing-up of Ponnelle’s charming original

- Verdi: I due Foscari (concert performance) – Deutsche Oper Berlin
Conductor: Roberto Rizzi Brignoli
Cast: Leo Nucci, Angela Meade, Ramón Vargas, et. al.
Reviewer’s evaluation: An outstanding performance from all involved.

- Verdi: Il Trovatore (concert performance) – Deutsche Oper Berlin
Conductor: Andrea Bottistoni
Cast: Stuart Neill, Anja Harteros, Dalibor Jenis, Dolora Zajick, et. al.
Reviewer’s evaluation: With the exception of Jenis and Zajick, disappointing in many respects. Neill was an apathetic, dry-voiced, and sometimes short-winded troubadour. Harteros was better, but many of her high notes went sharp and she had to work to achieve the necessary rhythmic elasticity. Despite Bottostoni’s efforts, the orchestra offered a generally unexciting performance.

- Puccini: Tosca – Cologne Opera
Conductor: Markus Stenz
Director: Thilo Reinhardt
Cast: Takesha Meshé Kizart, José Cura, Anthony Michaels-Moore, Tiziano Bracci, Martin Koch, Dennis Wilgenhof, Rachel Bate (actress?)
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – A real star turn from Cura; unfortunately, the two other principals weren’t up to his level. Kizart’s voice seemed underpowered for Tosca, and Michaels-Moore’s Scarpia lacked menace. Conductor, orchestra, and other cast members performed well.
Staging – Updated to World War II and with all action taking place in the church, this look at the violent life in a totalitarian society was effective. (My note: the Marchesa Attavanti – Rachel Bate --was actually present and took part in her brother’s funeral procession.)

- Leo Fall: Madame Pompadour – Vienna Volksoper
Conductor: Andreas Schüller
Director: Hinrich Horstkotte
Cast: Annette Dasch, Heinz Zednik, Miko Roschkowski, Beate Ritter, Boris Pfeifer, Gerhard Ernst
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Bayreuth habitués Dasch and Zednik were marvelous in comic operetta. The rest of the cast sang well (though Roschkowski’s tenor was a little too small), and Schüller and the orchestra contributed substantially to the performance’s success.
Staging – An imaginative, naughty romp that the cast was clearly enjoying.

- Richard Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos – Hamburg State Opera
Conductor: Simone Young
Director: Christian Stückl
Cast: Anne Schwanewilms, Johan Botha, Hayoung Lee, Christina Damian, Katerina Tretyakova, Rebecca Jo Loeb, Gabriele Rossmanith, Franz Grundheber, Levente Pall
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – There were some very good performances, but none without flaws. Botha may have been the best, despite the fact that, as Bacchus, he was nearly immobile. Schwanewilms had some real problems, and her voice seemed inadequate for the role. Simone Young’s conducting was much better in the opera’s second part than in the prologue, and the mutual hostility between her and the Hamburg public was very much in evidence.
Staging – In most instances, satisfactory.

- Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress – Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf
Conductor: Axel Kober
Director: Sabine Hartmannshemm
Cast: Matthias Klink, Bo Skovhus, Annett Fritsch, Susan Maclean
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Solid all around; no weak links
Staging – Effective if not especially original

- Wagner: Das Liebesverbot (concert performance) – Frankfurt Opera
Conductor: Sebastian Weigl
Cast: Christiane Libor, Michael Nagy, Peter Bronder, Charles Reid, Julien Pregardien, Anna Gabler, Thorsten Grümbel, Anna Ryberg, Simon Bode, Franz Mayer, Kihwan Sim
Reviewer’s evaluation: Most performed exceptionally well; Reid seemed uninvolved and his voice was often strained at the top.

- Vivaldi: Farnace – Opéra national du Rhin, Strasbourg
Conductor: George Petrou
Director: Lucinda Childs
Cast: Max-Emanuel Cencic, Ruxandra Donose, Mary Ellen Nesi, Carol Garcia, Vivica Genaux, Emiliano Gonzales Toro, Juan Sancho
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Exceptional all around
Staging – Well thought-out; complimented the musical performance ideally.

- Donizetti: Le Duc d’Albe – Vlaamse Opera, Antwerp
Conductor: Paolo Caringnani
Director: Carlos Wagner
Cast: George Petean, Rachel Harnisch, Ismael Jordi, et. al.
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Very well done.
Staging – Effective; updated to some vaguely contemporary period, and explores political fanaticism as well as a country living under foreign occupation.

- Massenet: Manon – Kiel Theater
Conductor: Leo Siberski
Director: Silvana Schröder
Cast: Ekaterina Isachenko, Yoonhi Baek, Tomohiro Takada, Kyung-Sik Woo, Fred Hoffmann, Hanna Herfurtner, Sen Acar, Marina Fideli
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Many of the soloists were very good; however, Baek’s voice lacked color in its midrange. In the first act, the orchestra’s playing was sluggish and unspired, but improved noticeably afterward.
Staging – To accommodate the Regisseur’s concept, which set the first act in a railway station, some “minimal” changes were made to the text. In the Cours-la-Reine scene, the ballet music and that accompanying the Manon-Comte de Grieux duet was played not by the orchestra but as a strange electro-mix by a band. The reviewer didn’t seem particularly disturbed by these alterations, however.

- Berthold Goldsmidt: Beatrice Cenci – Dortmund Theater
Conductor: Jac van Steen
Director: Johannes Schmid
Cast: Christiane Kohl, Katharina Peetz, Ileana Mateescu, Andreas Macco, Christian Sist, Christoph Strehl, Karl Heinz Lehner
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Generally very well done, though Macco lacked the vocal authority and darkness for the opera’s villain
Staging – While not strictly traditional, a timeless setting that focused on the issues of sexual violence in families, and power and violence in society.

- Carl Nielsen: Masquerade – United City Stages, Krefeld-Mönchengladbach
Conductor: Graham Jackson
Director: Aron Stiehl
Cast: Tobias Scharfenberger, Eva Maria Günschmann, Andrew Nolen, Hayk Dèinyan, Walter Planté, Satik Tumyan, Debra Hays, Michael Simon
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Well done, and cast was dramatically involved in the proceedings.
Staging – Updated from the late 18th century, when the action was supposed to take place, to the present. Standard comic plot was both livened up and given more depth.

- Wagner: Götterdämmerung – Anhältlisches Theater, Dessau
Conductor: Antony Hermus
Director: André Bücker
Cast: Arnold Bezuyen, Iordanka Derilova, Ulf Paulsen, Stephan Klemm, Angelina Russafante, Rita Kampfhammer, Nico Wouterse
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Plusses and minuses: the conductor, orchestra, and most of the soloists were among the former. Bezuyen’s Siegfried, lacking in radiance and power, was chief among the latter. Derilova (Brünnhilde) took a little time to warm up, but gave a respectable performance overall.
Staging – A mélange that incorporated visual references to the city’s Bauhaus architecture, and gestures borrowed from the “biomechanical” style of Russian actor and director Vsevolod Meyerhold. Reviewer seemed to think it worked.

- Richard Strauss: Salome – St. Gallen City Theater
Conductor: Modestas Pitrenas
Director: Vincent Boussard
Cast: Alexandrina Pendatchanska (Alex Penda), Martin Ganter, Gabriele Schnaut, Andreas Conrad, Derek Taylor, Terhi Kaarina Lampi
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – Penda, as she’s now calling herself, was “simply sensational” in the title role, and Gantner (Jochanaan), Schnaut (Herodias), and Conrad (Herodes) all excelled in their roles. The remaining roles were “adequately cast.” Conductor and orchestra offered a distinguished performance.
Staging – Provided a clear focus on the relationships between the principal characters with telling details.

- Wagner: Siegfried – Bulgarian National Opera, Sofia
Conductor: Pavel Baleff
Director: Plamen Kartaloff
Cast: Kostadin Andreev, Plamen Papazikov, Nikolay Petrov, Mariana Zvetkova, Biser Georgiev
Reviewer’s evaluation:
Musical performance – With very few exceptions, impressive. (Petrov had some problems with the German text.)
Staging – Wonderful timeless quality; included a visualization of the action occurring between Die Walküre and Siegfried.

News Briefs

- Plácido Domingo, Barbara Frittoli, and Zubin Mehta were the stars of an open-air benefit concert 27 July at the Salzburg Festival. There will also be a benefit concert performance of La Boheme with Piotr Beczala on 23 August.

- The Met has already announced several cast changes for its 2012-13 season. Barbara Frittoli will replace Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta in Don Carlo, while Radvanovsky replaces Karita Mattila as Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera – a production that will now also include Marcelo Alvarez as Gustavo. Radvanovsky is being replaced in Il Trovatore, as well; Carmen Giannattasio is now scheduled to sing Leonora, with Gwyn Hughes-Jones taking on Manrico. Dolora Zajick is replacing Olga Borodina as Amneris in Aida.

- Villas and palaces in the vicinity of Torino provided the lavish sets for a new film version of La Cenerentola that was broadcast on Italian television earlier this year. Under the direction of Carlo Verdone and the baton of Gianluigi Gelmetti, the young Ukrainian mezzo Lena Balkina sang Angelina, with Edgardo Rocha as Don Ramiro and Simone Alberghini as Dandini.

- Christa Ludwig, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Siegfried Jerusalem, and Konrad Jarnot were among instructors for master courses in opera, German opera, Lied, and oratorio being given 9 July-12 August by Academia Vocalis in the Tirolean town of Wörgl.

- José Carreras has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Saarland in Saarbrücken. The university’s Homburg campus is home to the José Carreras Center for Immuno- and Gene Therapy.
As part of the tenor’s efforts to raise funds for the fight against leukemia, the first José Carreras International Yacht Race was held near Mallorca 28 July-2 August.

Report

This two-page section includes a selection of small articles.

- Brigitte Fassbänder completed her tenure as Intendantin at Innsbruck’s Tiroler Landestheater with what may have been her most successful staging. For her farewell production, she selected Britten’s Albert Herring, and once again demonstrated her affinity with this composer’s operas. Outstanding among cast members were Joshua Lindsay in the title role and Suzanne von der Burg as Lady Billows.

- For the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, architect/designer Frank Gehry transformed his own Walt Disney Concert Hall into a stage and fitted it out with mountains of white paper. Gustavo Dudamel and his orchestra were positioned behind the stage on what looked like heaps of black garbage bags fronted by movable white boxes, so that the entire scene had an appearance suggesting a lunar landscape. The opera was staged by David Alden; among standouts in the cast were Mariusz Kwiecien (Don Giovanni), Pavol Breslik (Don Ottavio), Anna Prohaska (Zerlina), and Aga Mikolaj (Donna Elvira). This was the first production in the LA Philharmonic’s cycle of Mozart-Da Ponte operas; next up is Le Nozze di Figaro.

- Sebastian Baumgarten’s staging of Puccini’s Il Trittico was much more favorably received by the audience at the Hannover State Opera than his setting of Tannhäuser was by attendees at last year’s Bayreuth Festival. Il Tabarro was set on a pirate ship and dealt with the issue of slavery as well as the Luigi-Giorgetta-Michele romantic triangle that forms the basis of the plot. Suor Angelica took place in an early 19th century prison-like convent, with a chain-smoking Abbess; Angelica’s celestial reunion with her son is presented as an illusion – actually projected on a screen, which makes me wonder if the writer meant early 20th century rather than 19th. Gianni Schicchi was updated to Fascist Italy, and Baumgarten evidently made clear from the start that there was some very serious business underlying the goings-on.

- Cornelius Meister made his farewell appearance as General Music Director of the Heidelberg Theater and Orchestra conducting performances of Ariadne auf Naxos – the final one in a temporary tent with all of the acoustical problems that entailed. The staging sometimes worked, sometimes didn’t, but Meister proved himself a literal master (German “Meister” = English “master”) of the situation and received a standing ovation from the audience.

- The City Theater in Giessen wrapped up its 2011-12 season with a highly-regarded premiere of the third act of Lulu. Composer/conductor Eberhard Kloke, who had written an ending for this unfinished opera in 2010 that was performed in Oslo, Dresden, and Erfurt, has since prepared another version for an orchestra of approximately 30 members, making it possible for smaller theaters to perform this work. Based on notes and sketches left by Berg, Kloke shortened the two scenes in the final act, added larger speaking roles, and used an accordion rather than wind instruments to accompany the Lulu-Countess Geschwitz exchange.

- Jürgen Flimm’s staging of La Clemenza di Tito at the Vienna State Opera gets panned by the writer for using the “traditional, dusty elements of the Regietheater moth (proof) box.” Evidently, massive amounts of dry ice fog and a large contingent of “super-sexy,” long-legged supernumeraries didn’t do much to divert attention from the inadequate staging. At least audiences were compensated by Elina Garança’s outstanding performance in the role of Sesto. Michael Schade as Tito sang with his customary attractive timbre, but had some problems keeping his voice in focus during the opening performance.

Preview

Many of the opera houses and theaters for which 2012-13 season schedules are provided in this section have already appeared on Opera Lively. The complete listing in this issue includes:
- Gan Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona
- Essen Philharmonic
- Opéra de Lyon
- Vlaamse Opera, Antwerp/Ghent
- Lüneburg Theater
- Nürnberg State Theater
- Vienna Volksoper
- Musiktheater im Revier, Gelsenkirchen
- Bergamo Music Festival
- Théâtre de la Monnaie/de Munt, Brussels
- Xanten Summer Festival
- Erfurt Theater
- Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg
- Fränkische Sommer/Musica Franconia, Ansbach
- Bremen Music Festival

DVD/CD Reviews

- Smetana: The Bartered Bride (in German translation)
Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Director: Philippe Harnoncourt
Cast: Dorothea Röschmann, Kurt Streit, Markus Schäfer, Heinz Zednik, Ruben Drole, Anton Scharinger, Elisabeth Kulman, Bibiana Nwobilo
Styriarte Festival Edition – 1 DVD, 3 CDs
Musical Performance: This was the first use of the German translation (by Emanuel Züngel) personally authorized by Smetana. The cast generally sings very well, though Streit is inclined to force too much on high notes.
Staging: Actually, this was a semi-staged performance, with singers positioned on a portion of an antique carousel and the orchestra in front. Harnoncourt père et fils eschew the folksy cheeriness to look at the story’s more somber aspects.

- Mozart: Die Zauberflöte
Conductor: Roland Boër
Director: William Kentridge
Cast: Saimir Pirgu, Genia Kühmeier, Alex Esposito, Günther Groissböck, Albina Shagimuratova, Ailish Tynan
Opus Arte OA 1066 D (1 DVD)
Musical Performance: Solid performances all around
Staging: Some interesting ideas are occasionally undermined by heavy-handed “messages” (quotation marks mine).

- Cavalli: Il Giasone
Conductor: Federico Maria Sardelli
Director: Mariame Clément
Cast: Christophe Dumaux, Katarina Bradić, Robin Johannsen, Emilio Pons, Andrew Ashwin, Filippo Adami, Angélique Noldus, Yaniv d’Or
Dynamic 33663 (2 DVDs)
Musical Performance: Exciting and well-done.
Staging: Clément describes the music as “erotic” and “sensual,” and her staging is appropriately steamy without overdoing it. A sort of undefined No Man’s Land makes for a versatile background.

- Erwin Schrott: Arias
Sony Classical 88691971162 (1 CD)
Musical performance: Opera’s bad boys play a leading role in this recording which has been divided into blocks focused on the Italian, French, and South American repertoires. Schrott not only sings magnificently, but totally inhabits each character he portrays.

- Edita Gruberova (soprano), Alexander Schmalcz (piano): Schubert Lieder
Nightingale Classics 000065-2 (1 CD)
Musical performance: The soprano’s voice still retains its youthful freshness after 40 years as a professional singer, along with its characteristic precise coloratura and clean high notes. In addition to many well-known Lieder, this recording also contains some Italian-language student compositions Schubert wrote while he was Salieri’s pupil.

- Bellini: Il Pirata
Conductor: David Parry
Cast: José Bros, Carmen Giannattasio, Ludovic Tézier, et. al.
Opera Rara ORC 45 (3 CDs)
Musical performance: A very solid rendition of an early Bellini opera, if not a flawless one (tenor has intonation problems; soprano is technically unfinished).

- Johann Strauss the Younger: Prince Methusalem
Conductor: Ernst Theiss
Cast: Jana Frey, Jessica Glatte, Frank Ernst, Isabell Schmitt, Christian Grygas, Gerd Wiemer, Inka Lange
CPO 777 747-2 (2 CDs)
Musical performance: This is the same conductor and soloists who were involved in the Dresden State Operetta production reviewed earlier.

- Telemann: Flavius Bertaridus
Conductor: Alessandro de Marchi
Cast: Maite Beaumont, Ann-Beth Solvang, Nina Bernsteiner, Jürgen Sacher, David DQ Lee, Katerina Tretyakova, Melissa Petit, Antonio Abete
German Harmonia Mundi/Sony 88691926052 (3 CDs)
Musical performance: There is no applause and barely any stage noise in this live recording, almost giving it the sound of a studio release. The performance, using original instruments, is excellent (with the exception of Abate’s poor German diction and “grating” timbre).

- Dvořák: Gypsy Songs
Genia Kühmeier (soprano), Bernarda Fink (mezzo-soprano), Christoph Berner (pianist)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 902 081 (1 CD)
Musical performance: Outstanding from all involved.

- Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Gerold Huber (pianist): “Ferne Geliebte”
Sony Classical 88691935432 (1 CD)
Musical performance: A selection of Lieder from the Viennese School and the Viennese Moderne – from Haydn and Beethoven to Schoenberg and Berg – looks at lovers without a future. The program demands concentration and receptiveness from the listener, but offers a very rewarding experience for those who make the effort.

- Barry McDaniel: Songs by Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Duparc, Ravel, and Debussy
With Hertha Klust and Aribert Reimann (piano), Eberhard Finke (cello), and Karlheinz Zoeller (transverse flute)
Audite 23426 (2 CDs)
Musical performance: A superb recording from this lyric baritone, a member of the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1962-1999, who had the misfortune to be in the shadow of Fischer-Dieskau and Herrmann Prey during his career.