STRAUSS: Salome
Asmik Grigorian (Salome). John Daszak (Herod). Anna Maria Chiuri (Herodias). Gábor Bretz (Jochanaan). Julian Prégardien (Narraboth). Avery Amereau (Page). Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Franz Welser-Möst, cond.
C MAJOR DVD 112 min.
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WEBER: Der Freischütz
Ki;oa Lleiter (Agatha). Michael Kraus (Ottokar). Günther Groissböck (Kaspar). Frank Van Hove (Kuno/Samiel's Voice). Eva Liebau (Annchen). Michael König 9max). La Scala Chorus and Orchestra / Myung-Wha Chung
NAXOS DVD TT: 135 min
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YOUNG PICASSO
EXHIBITION ON SCRENE DVD TT: 91 min.
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This unusual Salome was presented at the 2018 Salzburg Festival, a bizarre treatment of Strauss's masterpiece. The single set is simple a simple wall.Romeo Castellucci is responsible for the set, costumes, staging and lighting. His concept is weird to say the least, rather like a fantasy on the opera. It has been described as a combination of "social and religious history," with extremely relevant images, which at first glance seem puzzling, but then become clearer."" Supposedly he wanted to present a production that "impresses by omission." As a result, Salome does not do the Dance of the Seven Veils; during it she is a static bent figure on top of a decorated crate. in the final scene, Salome sings to Jochanaan's headless nude body which is sitting on a simple chair. On occasion she sits on his lap! We never see Jochanaan's head, which is what Salome wanted. There are many odd scenes. At one point what appears to be a large black horse appears in the cistern; later we see a horse's head on stage, and in the final scene Salome at one point places it on Jochanaan's body. And there is a pond of milk in which Salome splashes around. Just what this is meant to convey never is clarified.

Jochanaan's costume is striking. All in black, he looks like a cross between a huge feathered bird and a large long-haired black bear. With the exception of Salome and Herodias, all others wear modern suits and hats. Salome wears a simple revealing white costume, Herodias is dressed like a pompous Queen and the lower half of her face is painted green. All other characters have the lower part of their faces painted a brilliant red. No reason is given for all of these oddities.

The performance is a showcase for an exciting new Lithuanian soprano, Asmik Grigorian. A beautiful woman, she has a clear, powerful and beautiful voice, and she is a remarkable actress as well. while she does not perform theDance of the Seven Veils, she does at one point while lying on her back, do a quite exotic dance with her feet leg and feet—and she had the looks and ability tto bring it off. Others in the cast are not as impressive. Gábor Bretz is a formidable Baptist; others do not impress. The Vienna Philharmonic has played this music many times including with conductors Sir George Solti and Herbert von Karajan. Franz Welser-Möst''s direction does not impress. Excellent well-balanced multi-channel audio. Video is excellent except that often one cannot really tell just what is going on.This is a fascinating Salome. You can see an excerpt from this Salome on You Tube.

Der Freischütz ("The Marksman") with a libretto by Friedrich Kingis is based on a German folk legend, is considered to the first major truly "German opera." It deals with the mystic and supernatural in a most descriptive way, with menacing hunting horns, visions of specters and ominous orchestral sounds.The convoluted plot focus on the insecure huntsman Max who makes a pact with the devil to obtain magic bullets that will always hit their target. This is vividly depicted in the famous Wolf's Glen Scene. His goal is to win the hand of Agathe, daughter of a forester named Cuno. The opera ends happily as Max and Agathe are to be married. This is opera on a grand scale, and this site praised a magnificent live performance from the 1954 Salzburg Festival, a very special night indeed. Furtwängler conducts a perfect cast, and the Vienna Philharmonic produces magnificent sounds. This amazing performance has been available on the Urania label; we are fortunate that Pristine Audio has remastered this (REVIEW). Several years ago, a 2014 performance from the Dresden State Opera conducted by Christian Thielemann was released, a modern production with not particularly exiting singers. (REVIEW). This new one is from LaScala filmed October 13 and 17, 2017. Sets were designed by Raiunund Orfeo Voigt, costume designers were Susanne Biskovsky and Josef Gerger, lighting was by Marco Filibeck, and Matthias Hartmann was stage director. The high point of this performance is the imaginative presentation of the Wolf's Glen scene, replete with fire and sometimes spectacular effects. Vocally, the only outstanding member of the cast is bass Günther Groissböck. His athletic presentation of the possessed Kaspar is remarkable. Otherwise this is unmemorable. There is majesty and power in Weber's old0fashioned opera There are many audio recordings, particularly those conducted by Eugen Kochum, Erich Kleiber, Rafael Kubelik, Karl Böhm and, in particular, Furtwängler. All of these find power in this opera absent from this new issue

There are many films and videos about the life and work of Pablo Picasso This latest one deals with his early life in three cities where he lived in his formative years: Malaga, Barcelona and Paris. This film by Phil Grabsky is rather like a travelogue of those cities. For me, too much footage is devoted to city life, and I find the views of the guitarist unnecessary. But producers did have access to the three main Picasso museums, and there are many fine HD views of his works, all from his "blue" period. A major issue for Picasso fans.

R.E.B. (August 2019)