CONCERT FROM DRESDEN SEMPEROPERA
VIVALDI: Concerto in G minor for strings. WEBER: Jubel Overture. WAGNER: Rienzi Overture. STRAUSS: An Alpine Symphony, Op. 64
Dresden State Orch/Giusepe Sinopoli, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD TT: 91 min.

BRUCKNER: Sympony No. 8 in C minor
Dresden State Orch/Christian Thielemann, cond.
C MAJOR DVD TT: 80 min.
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STRAUSS: Capriccio
Renée Fleming (The Countess). Bo Skovhus (Der Graf). Michael Shade (Flamand). Markus Eiche (Olivier). Kurt Ryde (La Roche). Angelica Kirchschlager (Clarion). Vienna State Opea Orch/Christoph Eschenbach, cond.
C MAJOR DVD TT: 163 min.
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September 22, 1998 a special concert was given in Dresden's Semper Opera to commemorate 4 1/2 centuries of the house where countless major works were premiered over the years. The program featured four of these as outlined above, ending with An Alpine Symphony, particularly appropriate as the premieres of Strauss's Salome, Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier were given there. Italian conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli (1946-2001) was conductor of the Phlharmonia Orchestra for a decade beginning in 1984, and was appointed music director of Dresden't Staatskapelle in 1992. He died in 2001 while conducting a performance of Aida in Berlin. He does not impress in these performances, nor does the orchestra which seems a big understaffed for the Strauss. Video is basic, audio unimpressive stereo. This Alpine was released on a separate DVD on Euroarts in 2008 which was unenthusiastically mentioned on this site (REVIEW).Unless you are an avid admirer of Sinopoli, there is no reason whatever to get this DVD, particularly when spectacular videos of the Strauss are available conducted by Christian Thielemann (REVIEW), Neemi Järvi (REVIEW) and Kent Negano (REVIEW).

The Dresden orchestra is in top form in this performance of Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 from a concert June 10, 2012.with Christian Thielmann conducting. The controversial German conductor has held a number of leadership positions with major orchestras, and has made some superlative videos many of which have been reviewed on this site: Beethoven symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic (REVIEW), and symphonies of Brahms from Dresden (REVIEW). He conducts Bruckner's massive symphony without a score and, in spite of critical accolades in accompanying notes, I imagine most will find his Bruckner somewhat erratic with exaggerated dynamics. Surely his deliberate pacing of the work's final notes will raise eyebrows, and his stern look warns the audience not to applaud too soon. Video and audio are excellent, but surely most viewers will prefer less controversial readings.

Capriccio, premiered in 1942. was Richard Strauss's final opera, The composer called it "A Conversation Piece for Music" writing the libretto himself aided by Clemens Krauss. The Countess must decide between her two suitors, the poet Olivier or the musician Flamand. Even in the closing scene she cannot decide which is of greater importance: words or music.And the opera is very long and goes on — and on — and on for almost 2 1/2 hours. For me, it is much lengthy ado about nothing, and the music hardly is among Strauss's best. The leading role has attracted famous sopranos over ;the years including Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Lisa Della Casa, Gundula Janowitz and Kiri Te Kanawa. Here is Renée Fleming;s third video of the opera. There is a Paris Opera production from 2004 with Ulf Schermer conducting, and a Met performance from 2010 with Sir Andrew Davis on he podium. This Vienna State Opera production taped June 27, 2012, is a beauty. Marco Arturo Marelli's production is gorgeous, the entire cast in top form, and Eschenbach is a sure hand on the podium. Costumes by Dagmar Niefind are colorful to say the least, although the gown for the Countess seems to have little "wings" on both front and back. Visually this production is stunning, and audio is excellent although not particularly "surround." If this opera interests you, this surely should be investigated.

R.E.B. (June 2014)

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