Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 

Così fan tutte from DG

Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled Great Wagner Singers.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity. 

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation. 

Cecilia Bartoli as Norma

Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma

Ariane et Barbe-Bleue on Blu-Ray

Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz
25 Jun 2007

WEBER: Der Freischütz

Produced by Rolf Lieberman and directed for television by Joachim Hess, this 1968 studio recording of Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz has much to recommend as a traditional production of the opera.

Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz.

Edith Mathis (Ännchen), Tom Krause (Ottokar), Hans Sotin (Hermit), Franz Grundheber (Killian), Toni Blankenheim (Kuno), Gottlob Frick (Kaspar), Ernst Kozub (Max), Arlene Saunders (Agathe), Bernhard Minetti (Samiel), Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Hamburg State Opera Chorus: Leopold Ludwig, conductor.

Arthaus 101271 [DVD]

$29.98  Click to buy

Performed perhaps less often in North America than in Europe, such a solid presentation of this seminal German opera is welcome on DVD, since it allows audiences not just to hear the work as is possible on CD, but also to view the interaction of the characters on stage. This particular production includes some find singers who are well-known internationally, notably Hans Sotin, Franz Grundheber, and Edith Mathis, who have participated in classic recordings of Romantic repertoire. At the same time, the inclusion of the German actor Berhard Minetti in the speaking role of Samiel allows modern audiences to view one way this role has been effectively rendered on a European stage.

As a television production, the famous overture is not presented with shots from the opera house with images of the conductor, performers, and audience members, but rather, the production makes use of iconography associated with Der Freischütz. The transitions are typical of the time and lack the more nuanced shifts that have become expected of modern productions, yet they help to establish the context for this production. At the beginning of the first act, the details of the production offer a typical German production of the work, with peasant costumes, hunting garb and other accouterments that reinforce the connection of this opera with the vernacular, that is, with the German culture Weber’s day. At the same time, the acting conveys the suspenseful mood of this modern-day transformation of the story of Faust.

Since the source of this video is film and not derived from digital media, the images contain some flicker and, at least once, the dot on the upper right-hand side of the screen that preceded a break for commercials in American television. This is a relatively minor concern, but those accustomed to more recent opera DVDs may notice the character of the reproduction as different in this release, which is one of thirteen operas that Rolf Lieberman produced for television. The color of this film stands out, though, since it resembles the almost glossy tone that was used in commercial films of the 1960s. With the connotation of mainstream cinema for opera, an artform that is often film from the stage and not produced in the studio, the initial impression is somewhat jarring. As with other modes of visual display, it is possible to see past these details and into the fine production captured in this film.

Within this conventional production of Der Freischütz the performances are uniformly fine and even. Predictably, such familiar voices as Sotin, Grundheber, and Mathis give fine and articulate performances. Gottlob Frick offers a fine interpretation of Kaspar that is sinister enough without venturing toward caricature, and even though his pitches tend toward the flat side, his tone is nicely even. With the crucial role of Max, the German singer Ernst Kozub gives a fine performance that matches the lyricism with the inner struggle of his character. His performance at the end of the first act is introspective enough, and with the second act’s Wolf’s Glen scene, he sustains the mood. It releases only with this making the sign of the cross, a gesture that foreshadows the ultimate resolution of Max’s pursuit of the diabolical and his eventual redemption.

With the women, the roles of Agathe and Ännchen are executed well by Arlene Saunders and Edith Mathis. Both of the singers deliver equally fine performances that bring out the lyricism necessary for their roles. There is a hint a bel canto in their approaches to the music, and this stylistic choice is effective. Decades after this production was filmed, Mathis may be a more familiar voice, but Saunders gave a convincing performance as Max’s lover Agathe.

The choice of Hans Sotin as the Hermit is excellent in giving the final scene to such a fine singer. Sotin’s commanding presence is essential to the final scene, which must resolve the drama by meeting justice with mercy and eliminating any doubt about the disposition of the situation. This is an exemplary execution of the role that contributes to the overall success of this production.

Among the various DVDs of Der Freischütz that are currently available, this one conducted by Leopold Ludwig is an excellent one. Not only does this DVD release preserve a classic production, but it also brings to new audiences an outstanding interpretation of the work. Various details contribute to its quality, such as the options for subtitles in German, English, French, Italian, and Spanish. In addition, the accompanying booklet includes a summary of the libretto and a detailed listing of the tracks. Those who have seen a performance of this important nineteenth-century opera will find this to be a fine production of Weber’s Der Freischütz.

James L. Zychowicz

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):