WAGNER: Tristan and Isolde
MENDELSSOHN: Music for A Midsummer Night's Dream. TCHAIKOVSKY: Manfred,
LEHAR: Das Land Des Lächelns
This is he first video release of this presentation of Wagner's masterpiece. It was issued many years ago on Philips CD. Given in concert performance one act a a time, January 13, April 27, and November 10, 1981, it took place in Munich's rather small (1,400 seats) Herkulessaal. Singers stand on a raised narrow platform at the rear, and he only scenery is a large painted backdrop of a rather stormy sky. The cast is about the best available during that time. Peter Hofmann was singing his first Tristan. Hildegard Behrens surely does not have the power of Nilsson or some other singers, but she sings sensitively. About a decade earlie,r she had recorded the role with Herbert von Karajan. Bernstein really is the star of this production, and his interpretation is the longest ever. Video director Karlheinz Hundorf includes many images of he conductor in various stages of ecstasy. This was made for German TV and picture format is 4:3. Stereo sound is well-balanced and subtitles are provided in many languages. Surely admirers of Bernstein will wish to investigate this. There is no point in getting the Blu Ray version.
It is surprising thus far in his remarkable career Riccardo Chailly has recorded Tchaikovsky only once before cimmercially, Symphony No. 5 in 1983 with the Vienna Philharmonic for Decca, a performance I found less than satisfying. Also available is a live performance of Symphony No. 1 in he conductor's largeRCOA LIVE series (REVIEW). Now he turns his attention to the mighty Manfred Symphony Op. 58, in this live performance from the Lucerne Festival August 2017. Menfred is one of my favorite Tchaikovsky works, and there are many superb recordings of it including Toscanini's early truncated NBC version and, recently, a magnificent SACD with Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra (REVIEW). Chailly directs a splendid performance and the virtuoso Lucerne orchestra does not disappoint. The concert opens with familiar excerpts from Mendelssohn's masterpiece, played wih appropriate delicacy except for the rousing Wedding March. Video director Michael Beyer gives us the expected close-ups of soloists including the organist in the finale. Audio is first-rate stereo; for this recording engineers have made little use of rear channel information. Overall effect is satisfying, but the "5.1 audio" is not as spectacular as what is heard on Chaily's Leipzig Mahler videos.
Lehár's Das Land des Lächelns (The Land of Smiles) had its premiere in Berlin October 10, 1929, with Richard Tauber as Prince Sou-Chong. The famous Act II aria Dein is mein ganzes Herz (Yours is My Heart Alone) was an instant hit, and Tauber sang it in a number of music centers. His recording of the aria became an instant best-seller. The operetta is the tragic story of the conflicting cultural differences between Vienna and China. It takes place in 1912. Countess Lisa married a Chinese prince, moves with him to China, but the cultural diffnces break up heir marriage and there is a sad ending, unusual for an operetta We experience his in a new Zurich Opera producion last year staged by Klaus Grünberg, with set and lighting by Silke Willrett, and costumes designed Kathrin Brunner. It is a rather stark production with simple, and beautiful elaborate costumes. The cast throughout is strong, and Piotr Beczala is in top form for his big aria. It is an enjoyable show, with superb video and excellent, natural multi-channel sound.
R.E.B. (July 2018)