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Mozart 22 - Coffret 33 DVD
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DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON ET DECCA JOIGNENT LEURS FORCES POUR UN PROJET PHARAONIQUE : LA SORTIE EN VIDEO DE L'INTEGRALITE DES OPERAS DE MOZART, ENREGISTRES A SALZBOURG CETTE ANNEE. Après la parution des volumes séparés, voici LE COFFRET ! Coffret 33 DVD contenant les DVDs sortis précédemment, ainsi que Les Noces de Figaro (Anna Netrebko, Bo Skhovus, Dorothea Röschmann, Ildebrando d'Arcangelo, Philharmonique de Vienne / Nikolaus Harnoncourt), et La Clémence de Titus (Elina Garanca, Dorothea Röschmann, Barbara Bonney, Philharmonique de Vienne / Nikolaus Harnoncourt). Le DVD des Noces de Figaro n'est pas sorti séparément, il est pour le moment disponible DANS LE COFFRET UNIQUEMENT. Il sera disponible au printemps de l'année prochaine. La Clémence de Titus est déjà sortie sur TDK et est repackagée pour la circonstance. Le prix du coffret a été étudié avec une attention toute particulière. Avec un PPD de 265 , il n'est pas excessif si l'on considère le caractère exceptionnel du projet : tous les DVDs sont des nouveautés (sauf un), les chanteurs, chanteuses et chefs sont de réputation internationale, les productions sont nouvelles pour la plupart.
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Directed by: Doris Dörrie
John Graham Hall, Alexandra Reinprecht, John Mark Ainsley, Véronique Gens, Ruxandra Donose, Adriana Kucerova & Markus Werba
Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, Ivor Bolton
Il re pastore, K208 ***
Kresimir Spicer, Annette Dasch, Marlis Petersen, Arpiné Rahdjian, Andreas Karasiak
Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble, Thomas Hengelbrock
Lucio Silla, K135 ****
Directed by: Jürgen Flimm
Roberto Saccr, Annick Massis, Monica Bacelli, Veronica Cangemi, Julia Kleiter, Stefano Ferrari
Chor und Orchester des Teatro La Fenice Venedig, Tomas Netopil
Ascanio in Alba K111 **
Directed by: David Hermann
Iris Kupke, Sonia Prina, Marie-Belle Sandis, Charles Reid, Diana Damrau, Christian Benzhaf, Katharina Vötter
Chor und Orchester des Nationaltheaters Mannheim, Adam Fischer
Bastien und Bastienne, K50 ***
Directed by: Thomas Reichert
Aleksandra Zamojska, Evmorfia Metaxaki, Bernhard Berchtold, Radu Cojocariu & Alfred Kleinheinz
Salzburger Marionettentheater & Junge Philharmonie Salzburg, Elisabeth Fuchs
Der Schauspieldirektor, K486 ***
Directed by: Thomas Reichert
Aleksandra Zamojska, Evmorfia Metaxaki, Bernhard Berchtold, Radu Cojocariu & Alfred Kleinheinz
Salzburger Marionettentheater & Junge Philharmonie Salzburg, Elisabeth Fuchs
La Betulia liberata, K118 ***
Jeremy Ovenden, Marijana Mijanovic, Julia Kleiter, Franz-Josef Selig, Irena Bespalovaite & Jennifer Johnston
Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor & Münchener Kammerorchester, Christoph Poppen
Il sogno di Scipione, K126 **
Directed by: Michael Sturminger
Blagoj Nacoski, Louise Fribo, Bernarda Bobro,...Lire la suite ›
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I was very excited about the M22 project when I heard about it last summer indeed! Salzburg Festival staged all 22 Mozart opera in summer of 2006 and taped 20 of them for posterity ('Cosi fan tutte' and 'La clemenza di Tito' are from 2003), so the performance in some lesser known early opera were suffering because the A-list soloists were spread thin covering the more substantial works. However, there are some younger (and not famous yet) singers who really impress me with their performance in the obscure works.
I haven't seen all the shows. From the 10 DVDs (actually 11 opera since 2 got merged into 1 show) some are very good, but some are really dreadful. 'Ascanio in Alba' is so hatched up both musically and staging-wise I actually feel sorry for Mozart that the thing is the only DVD of the opera preserved for posterity.
Anyhow, I can tell you that at least 11 of the opera in this set (all the ones I do own) are of conceptual/pseudo-modernized staging. Some (like 'Tito', 'Idomeneo', or 'Apollo et Hyacinthus') convey the story better than the others (like 'Ascanio in Alba' or 'Lucio Silla'). And that all the early opera I've seen are heavily cut, and some are so altered that Mozart probably wouldn't recognize them.
'Bastien und Bastienne' and 'Der Schauspieldirektor', for example, were completely reworked and merged together to form one Singspiel (in the 'an opera within an opera' format). And there's this antic of replacing Italian recitativo secco with spoken German dialog ('Ascanio in Alba' and 'La finta semplice', for two). I enjoy hearing the works I hadn't heard before, but note that they aren't presented come scritto and in whole piece (and so do not present good 'historical' reference in term of music).
Unless you are a Mozart/opera collector, it'd probably be a good idea to rent some of the individual DVDs that this set contain before deciding to shell out $300 plus for the entire thing (especially if you are averse to Eurotrash staging...). There are some gems, but there are some mud as well.
1. Due to the large number of singers required to perform 22 works, many singers who might get passed over in a normal year got a chance to perform. This M22 set has introduced me to several excellent young singers, that I would not have heard of, simply because they have been passed over by the recording industry "hype machine" or "glamorpress". I for one, like to decide for myself who is hot. Despite the huge artist roster good to excellent singing is the rule, not the exception.
2. If you love, or are fascinated by regietheater, you will find a great sampling of styles in M22. My sense is that opera staging is making a big switch from Jungian symbols to Freudian symbols. In my opinion this is to appeal to a younger audience that does not have the time or inclination to think in an abstract or deep way. There is a great deal of added action which is not supported by the libretti. The MTV viewer would be bored by a conventional production. I for one have found many advantages to "stand and deliver" singing, except in comic operas, where I must admit some of the antics are very amusing. unfortunately some of these new productions strike me as more revolting than amusing.
All in all this a fascinating event recorded in good to great sound and picture quality. Unless this event and it's cast of singers is of interest, I would recommend buying Mozart opera DVDs individually based on your particular tastes.
SOME THOUGHTS ON TEN VOLUMES:
(to keep things simple, only the top title line of each volume is listed, number indicates position on M22 list at end of Finta Semplice booklet)
1. APOLLO ET HYACINTHUS. Beautiful traditional close to authentic production with nice singing. My only minor complaint is a modern telescope and magnifying glass. As someone who has restored an 1853 vintage telescope, I have to wonder whether any contact with amateur astronomers was attempted? Replicas of historic scientific instruments are available. Or did some hobby shop offer money if the production included their scope? I give it five stars.
3. LA FINTA SEMPLICE.
Modern staging that restores the true bawdy character of the opera, one chapter contains a nude extra and there is a fair amount of playing with undershirts. Great Ensemble work seldom seen and heard today. Superb singing from Malin Hartelius. I give it 5 stars, but a few have deemed this Eurotrash.
7. IL SOGNO DI SCIPONE.
Freudian staging and overactivity comprimises singing. 3 stars from me, because I found it to be a guilty pleasure. Good for some discussion I expect.
9. LA FINTA GARDINIERA.
Staged in a home improvement center. Quite raunchy, with extras dressed in transparent body stockings, so they might as well be nude. Singing is too forced for my taste. gave it 3 stars.
10. IL RE PASTORE.
Minimalist production that got good ratings. A little too minimal for me. (did not review after watching)
11. L'OCA DEL CAIRO
Possibly the worst of the M22 collection, bits and pieces strung together in a meaningless way. Gave it 2 stars, and have found nobody who liked it. Staging is pure Eurotrash, but some exceptional singing prevents me from giving it only one star.
14. ENTFUERHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL
A total perversion of the libretto with a very nasty edge. One reviewer liked it, but got adverse responses to his review. one star from me.
15. LE NOZZE DI FIGARO
Depressing but plausible, audience is VERY divided over this one.
16. DON GIOVANNI
Staging is weird and there is lots of underware. Not logical.
Excellent performance with a staging that reminds me of a Dr. Seuss childrens book. Not logical Four stars from me, based on ignoring the picture. Genia Kuhmeier is a perfect Pamina.
CLICK ON MY LISTMANIA TO LINK TO THE INDIVIDUAL DVD, and more comments.
For that alone, the festival management should be lauded and these amazing productions recommended, especially to neophytes who only have a casual interest in the arcane pastime of opera, and who are curious about what this Mozart wonder was really about.
I have bought a few individual boxes to sample the 2006 Salzburg productions, and I have seen a couple more at friends' places. I had very high expectations. On the whole I have been, perhaps unfairly, terribly disappointed.
Which is a subjective reaction, dictated by my own extensive knowlege of Mozart and his operas, not an objective analysis that would reflect the feelings of the public at large. I have to agree with most of the commentators who tend to express their own disappointment.
Although those M-22 performances are worthwhile as entertainment for a festival public, where the good summer mood makes the audience overlook all sins, I should insist on one critical point: Especially for a Mozart collector, this set is not such an advisable acquisition.
Mozart collectors are Mozart fanatics, not just ordinary fans (in spite of the relation between both words, there's a nuance, and we collectors do nuances) and are intransigent on extreme quality, exactly like Mozart was, fastidious to an extreme: in his dress, in his actions, in his music, in his operas.
The M-22 opera versions of Mozart presented in 2006 are obviously strongly influenced by the trends of movie direction. In these "modernized" stagings I have seen, there's a lot of sexual shenanigans, which is what spices up the show to modern audiences, and especially to young people, who get very excited with nudity.
Like, in one memorable performance, one of the females appeared on stage bare-chested and wearing only short panties, with no indication in Mozart's music that such a Venus had appeared on the stage. She was beautiful, of course, but what had this to do with a Mozart who agonized when his wife showed off her calves? The "in-your-face" approach was never his. Mozart loved ambiguity and guessing games, not brutal exhibitionism.
Modern directors want to make an impact and create a buzz about their names, and tend to ignore completely the authenticity of the original stagings. I strongly believe this is an ill we have to live with, but for us, Mozart collectors, this is a misguided trend that we are rejecting.
We now live in an age of exacerbated historical sense and integrity. We want to respect the "come scritto" to the letter. We resort to period instruments. We refuse to transpose the parts of sopranos castratos into tenor parts. We are furious with cuts, of recitatives -- boring or not -- and even more furious about cuts in arias. And we want the original language respected. We want the whole opera as it was meant to be -- the real McCoy.
We care about Mozart, but only the real Mozart, not the dressed-up and transmogrified Mozart of adaptations jiggered by "innovative" directors in our modern times.
In the same spirit of historical authenticity, we should respect the staging indications of the original libretti. Mozart belongs to the 18th century, and getting rid of the 18th century character of his stagings is a travesty. Usually done for reasons of cost, as a modern staging can be simplified and reduced to incongruity. How about T-shirts and shorts for costumes? Or even underwear? Or La Finta Giardiniera in a department store?
Our reaction is best expressed by Martin in Leonard Bernstein's Candide, when towards the end in his famous Laughing Song " Words, Words, Words", he defines the exact word to use, one we don't always dare to say publicly in polite society: "Two tiny syllables but spiny syllables;/One single word -- absurd./Ha! Absurd."
I think Mozart collectors, like all true art collectors, are the ones most interested in authenticity and historical value, and tend to shy away from these pretentious "modernized" stagings that were prevalent in the Salzburg festival.
This trend in free-for-all inventiveness, wild imagination, and shock value, as displayed in the M-22 offerings, is good for producers, directors and opera managers, who are keener to make their names than promote Mozart's music, and acceptable to the large public which doesn't care one way or the other, but only wants one evening's entertainment.
Cognoscenti would for instance much prefer, for instance, a Met production of a Mozart opera on DVD, because the Met has the most financial power and technical assets to produce a complex and costly "original" staging, with outstanding singers. Other well-financed opera houses are also willing and capable of assuming the costs of a "historical" production: Covent Garden, La Scala, Vienna, Munich, Berlin, Stockholm, etc...
I would gladly get rid of my few M-22 operas, but I would feel bad palming them off to other naive opera-fanciers. I do not even care to give them away, as I would consider this gift a disservice to the cause of presenting Mozart.
I'd probably keep the double-disc box which includes together "Apollo et Hyacinthus" and "Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots", only because there's no hope to get another DVD version for eons to come. But it takes a huge effort of imagination to visualize what Mozart had in mind. And I'd hesitate to part with "Il Re Pastore" where the singers sit or stand brandishing big playing cards for a depiction of the sweet pastoral life Mozart was dreaming of. Only because these DVDs are absolute curiosities and have no competition whatsoever. Still, to be brutally honest, how often am I going to slide them again in my DVD viewer, when the time spent would be much better devoted to listening world-class singers in audio CDs?
[Addition, Nov. 2, 2014. I was dead wrong there. I have been playing my DVDs of "Schuldigkeit", "Apollo" and "Il Re Pastore" dozens and dozens of time, as I am intoxicated by Mozart's early music and I find the M-22 performances captivating to watch. "Apollo", among others, is truly spectacular. I often do my daily fitness exercise session with a Mozart opera DVD on.]
Mozart's operas are, above all, about captivating voices that make you fall in love, extraordinary singing, and enchanting music, and not opportunities for "creative" and contrived stage showmanship which become sheer distractions.
In the 18th century the tension was the rivalry between "poetry" (the words of the librettist) and "music", and Mozart fought word for word with his librettists. Nowadays the tension has moved to the difficult partnership of "music" and "modern staging" gone wild, and he indubitably would now passionately disagree with the stage directors, threatening to throw his score in the fire if he didn't have his way.
We can only regret that Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, who had started directing Mozart's operas in such an exciting way, died accidentally so young. We would have loved to get a whole series of M-22 directed by him instead.
A music lover may have been introduced to Mozart's music the usual way: a few symphonies, some of the great piano concertos, one sinfonia concertante, Die Kleine Nachtmusik, the Requiem, and of course the bizarre movie "Amadeus" with the strident and idiotic laugh unfairly ascribed to Mozart, and perhaps one of the classic late operas. And he/she may become interested in plunging into Mozart's operas.
We feel that in that case, it'd be much preferable to first get to know the Mozart operas, not on DVDs, but with good audio CD versions -- which at least deliver the great music, and the chance to develop an acquaintance with the story and the original libretto -- and only then to start looking for the "right" DVD production which combines top singers with authentic staging.
For instance, it is easy to develop a basic familiarity with top audio performances of these operas in Philips's "COMPLETE EDITION OF MOZART" of 1991 (where the operas were sold individually with great booklets inside), or its condensed version, "COMPLETE COMPACT EDITION OF MOZART" of 2000 (where the operas are offered in boxes of about 4 or 5, and the booklets do not include any longer the original libretti). More recently, in the summer of 2009, all the operas in the two Philips editions have been compiled by Decca in one single set, the recent magnificent "MOZART: THE COMPLETE OPERAS", which has the merit of being budget-priced around $100. The deal of a lifetime, if not the century.
This base once secured, it is great fun to look around for good DVD productions, or, better to go and see the operas in a first-class house, such as the Met in New York, Covent Garden in London, or La Scala in Milan. Not everybody can do that, so then the DVDs become a great adjunct to one's deepening knowledge of the operas.
Of course, it would have been wonderful if the 2006 Salzburg festival performances had risen to the level of top quality produced in the great opera houses, but this has proved to be far from the case. Getting excellence in a complete series of the 22 operas seems to be an impossible task anyway.
In this case, a much better introduction to the staged operas can be found in the following superb DVD versions of the best-known works. Notice that most of them are published by Deutsche Grammophon, which is the publisher as well of the Salzburg Festival M-22 set.
"Mitridate, re di Ponto" - Harnoncourt, directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, with the great Gösta Winbergh in the title role, dazzingly filmed in 1986 in Vicenza's Teatro Olimpico, on DG;
"Ascanio in Alba" - Dantone, with Norberg-Schutz, Rancatore, Pizzolato, on the 2008 stage of the Teatro di Bologna, on Bongiovanni;
"La Finta Giardiniera" - Nikolaus Harnoncourt, with Mei, Strehl, Rey, Kleiter, in Zurich, 2006: a modern version that is faithful to the spirit and superbly done - Also Arnold Ostman, with Richard Croft, Ann-Christine Biel, on the cute 18th-century stage of the famous Drottningholm Opera house in Stockholm in 1988, on Arthaus Musik. Good 18th c. decors, very interesting, but too deeply cut to be a reference recording.
"Idomeneo" - Levine, directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, with an unforgettable Pavarotti, on the 1982 stage of the Met, on DG;
"Die Entführung aus dem Serail" - Karl Böhm, with Gruberova, Talvela,etc.., on the 1980 stage of the Munich opera house, on DG
"Le Nozze di Figaro" - John Pritchard, with Cotrubas, Te Kanawa, Von Stade, at the Glyndebourne Festival 1973, on Arthaus Musik; or
- Karl Böhm, directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle in 1976, with Caron, Te Kanawa, Fischer-Dieskau, on DG
"Don Giovanni" - Furtwängler, with Siepi, Grümmer, Lisa della Casa, at the Salzburg Festival 1954, on DG (one of the great classics of opera)
"Cosi Fan Tutte" - Harnoncourt, directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, with Gruberova, Stratas, of 1988, on DG
"Die Zauberflöte" - Sawallisch, with Lucia Popp, Gruberova, Moll, at the Munich Opera house in 1983, on DG
"La Clemenza di Tito" - Levine, directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, filmed in 1980 among the ruins of Rome, on DG, which revived in Mozart's last opera seria.
At least, with these classic high-quality DVD versions, a Mozart music lover would gain an exposure to the authentic operas without the risk of being confused by the wild inventions of modernistic and cheap productions. And, important when building a mental library, he/she would be spared the memories of these far-out stagings, and not be turned off for good by distorted images of Mozart's operas.
[Addition, Nov. 7, 2014:
Among the other early operas of Mozart, for instance, the M-22 DVD of "Apollo et Hyacinthus," is excellent, and the more acceptable that there is no competition. The opera is a "miniature masterpiece" says the conductor, Josef Wallnig.
Regarding the other DVD in the same M-22 box, "Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots," it has a good cast, good conducting, good everything, except that it's not a good "Schuldigkeit" as I explain in a comment below, because the key character Weltgeist has been disfigured into a monstrous-looking devil from Hell. With this staging, the "seria" has been transformed into a questionable "buffa".]
As for "Bastien und Bastienne," "La Finta Semplice," "Il Sogno di Scipione," "La Betulia Liberata," "Lucio Silla," and "Il re Pastore" (M-22 very acceptable as an abstract modern version, but certainly not the authentic work) -- each one infused with the unique charm of youth and longing yearning of adolescence, in an irresistibly enchanting and dreamy atmosphere that is not to be found again in the late operas -- a great iconic DVD version, that could become a classic or a reference performance, has yet to appear on the market.
We can't disregard the historical contribution made by this set in the case of a few of the early operas, for which, incredibly, they are the only ones available on DVD. These offerings have a certain value as amusing or shocking curiosities. It still remains that the abstract and simplified stagings obscure the original magnificence of the music designed to portray actions and feelings in visually picturesque "scenas".
Make no mistake, they are in no way the flesh-and-blood works as composed and envisioned by Mozart.
Mozart fanatics want to collect first-class performances or none. Simply because we may view the curiosities once, but never revisit them. Because the world of opera is immense, and our time is sadly limited.
Feb. 22, 2010
In defense of the effort, the M22 people were certainly not afraid to take chances. To attempt to redefine the too-familiar. To be creative. And I'm sick of hearing Americans rant about "Euro-trash" modernizations. In whatever style, some productions succeed and some fail. Still, if you're such a Mozart fan that you want his complete operatic oeuvre, don't you think you'll want the best?