JOHANN STRAUSS: Eine Nacht in Venedig
TCHAIKOVSKY: Eugene Onegin
GLENN GOULD - "THE RUSSIAN JOURNEY" - A film by Yosil
This intriguing video of Johann Strauss's A Night in Venice was issued some years ago but only now has come to my attention - and it is a delight in many ways. Classic recordings have been around for decades with performers including Elisabeth Schwazkopf, Nicolai Gedda, Hermann Prey, Rita Streich and Anneliese Gothenburger, and there is a previous video (which I have not seen) from the Mörbisch Festival conducted by Rudolf Bibl. The DGG issue is a slightly abridged version of the operetta filmed in 1973, an adaptation by Vratislav Kleger and Janne Furch-Allers, directed by Vaclav Kaslik. Sets and costumes are colorful, and much of the action takes place in a lagoon. Photography is remarkably vivid for its time, and there are many sometimes annoying special effects—but all of it is a lot of fun. The debauchery and decadence of the Viennese royalty are ever apparent, and the cast features many superb singers of the time, particularly Sylvia Geszty and Julia Migenes, but the real star is Ljuba Welitsch, the sensational Salome of several decades earlier. 1972 was the same year Welitsch made a guest appearance at the Met in 12 performances of the non-singing role of the Duchess of Krakentorp in The Daughter of the Regiment (which starred Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti). Welitsch stopped the show with every performance, and one can understand why viewing this Night in Venice. When she is on stage, she is the center of attraction, charming, quite beautiful, and in remarkably good voice as well. Lovers of the famed Bulgarian soprano surely will wish to see this, a bright, sparkling view of Viennese aristocracy, philandering and corruption. Don't miss this charming video.
This Eugene Onegin is the first production directed by Kasper Holten for the Royal Opera House. Costumes are by Katrina Lindsay, sets designed by Mia Stensgaard, with lighting by Wolfgang Göbbel. There are many plusses about this performance, taped in February 2013. Sets are beautiful, lighting often is spectacular. Keenlyside is his reliable self, and Pavo Breslik is a superb Lensky, who can act as well as sing. However, Krassimira Stoyanova is a somewhat matronly Tatiana, with a somewhat harsh sound, and her heavy emoting is often captured close-up by the cameras. The major problem is the director's decision to have young dancers portray the inner emotions of Onegin and Tatiana; thus often we have two figures on stage, often detracting, and really unnecessary. For some reason, Lensky drags a large branch of a tree on stage, and after the duel his body remains onstage entirely too long. Video and audio are superb, but DVD production leaves much to be desired. Set-up took longer than it should, and there are no clear instructions on how to eliminate the director's justification for his approach to Tchaikovsky's masterpiece. And there is no DVD booklet tracking information, a major omission. This is not one of the better Onegins available on DVD.
The countless admirers of Glenn Gould will wish to investigate this film by Yosil Feyginberg focusing on the pianist's highly successful tour of Russia in 1957. We have photos and recordings from concerts and events, many never before published—but, unfortunately, none of the performances are complete. We also gave commentary by Mstislav Rostropovich, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Walter Homberger (Gould's manager), and Henrietta Belyaeva who was his translator. Some of Gould's eccentricities are mentioned and observed in his performances. In the early 1960s I saw several performances by Gould with the Baltimore Symphony conducted b Peter Herman Adler. I recall Adler wanted to hire Gould for the Brahms Concerto No. 1 which he had just performed with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, a controversial interpretation as pianist and conductor had very different ideas. However, when Gould played the concerto in Baltimore, it was, surprisingly, a very standard reading. Gould also played Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 and a stunning performance of Strauss's Burlesque. I remember when he played Beethoven's Concerto No. 4, after playing the solo opening bars of the work, he turned and stared at the audience turning back to the keyboard a split second before the piano's entry. This new film is valuable, but poorly produced. There are tracks on the DVD, they are not identified, and there is no listing anywhere of contents—major oversights considering all of the people involved in production. How unfortunate there are no complete performances, just snippets, often with interrupting dialogue. Surely there must be some complete performances in the archives, but none are included here. Playing time is considerably less than an hour. This is an intriguing release, if a disappointing one considering what it might have been.
R.E.B. (November 2013)