MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S GALA GRAFENEGG
MOZART: Symphony Ni, 40 in G minor, K. 550. TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No.
6 in B minor, Op.74 Pathétique
This production of Tosca from the 2018 Salzburg Festival offers a generally fine performance in an ill-advised often idiotic new production directed by Michael Sturmingerne. Anka Harteros is a superb Tosca, Ludovic Terizer a menacing Scarpia. Aleksanders Antonenko is a coarse, uneven Cavaradossi. Others in the cast are excellent, but the director has many inappropriate peculiar ideas of the opera. After the curtain rises we hear a police siren and see police chasing and firing at Angelotti, who has just escaped from prison; then the music begins. This is a "film noir" concept of Puccini's masterpiece taking place in contemporary corrupt Rome. Men wear suits with ties. Tosca, except for Act II, wears unglamorous work clothes. Act III suffers most from Sturmingerne's irreverence to Puccini's opera. Instead of a group of soldiers appearing to murder Cavaradossi, we have five young men who look rther like Boy Scouts, and they shoot him with toy pistols (!). After Tosca discovers Cavaradossi is shot, sue sings her famous line about meeting Scarpia before God, but doesn't jump off the parapet. At this point Scarpia, who apparently wasn't killed in at the end of Act iI, appears, he picks up a toy pistol and shoots Tosca, who also has found a pistol and shoots Scarpia. If all of this sounds stupid, it surely is. Another case of a director butchering a masterpiece. The audience is wildly enthusiastic at the end;Grafenegg is renowned for Grafenegg Castle, owned by the Duke of Ratibor, Prince of Corvey of the House of Hohenlohe. The castle grounds are the site of the Grafenegg Music Festival and sculpture garden. it is difficult to imagine why. Approach with extreme caution! Puccini must be turning in his grave.
Graffenburg, a town outside Vienna, since 2008 has had afestival. Two venues have been constructed for the event, in the park of the majestic Grafenegg Castle. There is an open-air stage called Wolkenturm, and a small concert hall. Artistic director of the festival is pianist Rudolf Buchbinder. A varied series of concerts is presented, and on this DVD we have the opening night of the festival, June 2018. It turns out to be an odd event with a program that has a strange juxtaposition of music. It begins with Rossini's La gazza ladra overture. Tenor Joseph Calleja is heard in Celeste Aida who also sings Recondita harmonia from Tosca, Maria from Bernstein's West Side Story, and also is heard in a duet from La traviata with soprano Pretty Young. Calleja sings admirably although his voice is not ideal for Verdi. He is much more successful in the Tosca arua.. Pretty Young, in spectacular vocal condition, sings Qui la voce from Bellini's I puritani, a zarzuela aria by Giménez, and Arditi's Il bacio in addition to the Traviata duet.. The program also featured cellist Harriet Kright in music of Offenbach and Popper's Hungarian Fhapsody.The orchestra is heard in Hungarian March of Berlioz, ballet music from Aida, and the program ends with Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No 1. It is a hodgepodge of a program with unmatching elements. The orchestral playing is average at best. A major debit is video by Heidelnde Haschek, who usually takes us on a tour of the beautiful countryside and castle, when focus should be on the performers Audio is excellent, but this is not a very festive event; even the rather small outdoor audience didn't seem to be enthusiastic. Skip this one, for reasons stated.
Andres Nelsons is a busy conductor on the international scene, particularly as music director of the Boston Symphony and, since last year, music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Here is his latest video with that orchestra. It couples two popular symphonies: Mozart's No 40, and Tchaikovsky;s pathétique. The recording was made in the magnificent Leipzig Gewandhaus March 2018. Both surely are excellent performances, perfectly played, but this Tchaikovsky is subdued, surprising considering the conductor's volatile Shostakovich symphonies recorded in Boston. Engineers have provided a warm, clear sound perhaps lacking a bit in brass detail. For me, this is a disappointing issue. For an exceptional performance of the Tchaikovsky, check out the remarkable Claudio Abbado / Simon Bolivar Youth Ortchestra performance (REVIEW).
R.E.B. (May 2019)