HINDEMITH: Cardillac
Angela Denoke (The Daughter); Hannah Esther Minutillo (The Lady); Roland Bracht (The Goldsmith); Stephen Gadd (Provost Marshal); Alan Held (Cardillac); Christopoher Ventris (The Officer); Charles Workman (Cavalier); Chorus and Orchestra of the Paris National Opera/Kent Nagano, cond.
BELAIR DVD VIDEO BAC023 TT: 148 min. incl. 57 min. feature

Nina Stemme (Aida); Salvatore Licitra (Radames); Luciana D'Intino (Amneris); Juan Pons (Amonasro); Matti Salminen (Ramfis); Günther Groissbück (Il Re); Miroslav Christoff (Un Messagero); Christiane Kohl (Una Sacerdotessa); Zurich Opera Chorus and Orch/Adam Fisher, cond.
BELAIR DVD VIDEO BAC022 TT: 217 min. incl. features

MOZART: Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K. 310. 6 Variations on "Salve Tu, Domine," K. 398. Fantasia in D minor, K. 397. BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 21 in C, Op. 53 "Waldstein." Piano Sonata No. 28 in A, Op. 101. SCHUMANN: Nachtstück in F, Op. 23 No. 4. MENDELSSOHN: "Spinning Song" Op. 67 No. 4
Emil Gilels, pianist
DGG DVD VIDEO 004400734265 TT: 92 min.

Paul Hindemith (1985-1963 ) wrote more than a half-dozen operas, some of them existing in two versions. Unquestionably his operatic masterpiece is Mathis der Maler written in 1934-1935, but a decade earlier he wrote Cardillac based on a short story Das Fräulein von Scuderi by E. T. A. Hoffmann. It takes place in Paris in the 17th century and there are three acts and four scenes. The opera gets its name from the principal character, the goldsmith Cardillac who creates magnificent art objects from gold. After he sells them, he feels compelled to kill the purchaser. Cardillac is presented as an isolated artist who finds himself in a hostile society. His obsession for his golden artwork is greater than his love for his daughter, and in the final scene, which oddly takes place on rooftops, he admits he is the killer and is lynched. The score is challenging for both singers and audiences, and there is none of the sensuous beauty to be heard in Schreker's Die Gezeichneten composed about two decades earlier (see REVIEW) This Paris performance from their 2005 season is excellent, directed for video by Chloé Perlemuter who gives viewers some quite fascinating glimpses of backstage activity during orchestral interludes, even though this does interrupt the flow of the music. Most viewers doubtless will find the 57-minute feature "Discovering an opera: Cardillac" very helpful in understanding politics of the period and importance of this opera. Excellent sonics.

This new Aida is very much a mixed bag. Filmed in the Zurich Opera House in May 2006, it features the first performance of the title role by Nina Stemme, who impresses with her accuracy and power. Salvatore Licitra is in fine form as Radames, particularly after "Celeste Aida" is over. Luciana D'Intino doesn't make much of the role of Amneris (check out Kate Aldrich's electrifying performance from Teatro Giuseppe Verdi (REVIEW). Both Juan Pons and Matti Salminen are commanding as Amonasro and Ramfis. Franca Squarciapino's costumes are distracting, sometimes appearing like scenes from a Turkish harem, sometimes like a scene from Gone With the Wind. The costumes for D'Intino, with their big bustles, are particularly unattractive. The entire production suggests a limited budget; ballet sequences don't amount to much, and there is no big procession in Act II. Even had the performance been more distinguished, this video could not be recommended because of Andy Sommer's camera work. He often has three different images on screen at the same time, which I find highly distracting. On occasion he has one of the cameras on principals who aren't singing and they often look quite uncomfortable. The 5.1 surround sound is excellent, but this is not an Aida I will wish to see often.

DGG offers a film recorded during the Carinthian Summer Music Festival in the Stiftskirche, Ossiach, August 10-13, 1971, featuring Emil Gilels playing music in which he specialized: Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann and, as an encore, Mendelssohn's "Spinning Song." Gilels' playing is totally unaffected, he concentrates on the task at hand and is at his best—one of the major pianists of the century. Hugo Käch's direction is sensible with the camera usually in the right spot. The DTS 5.1 "surround sound" is artificially produced and rather makes it seem as if the pianist is overpedalling. You might prefer to listen in regular stereo. There are no special features or "bonuses." As this program is only slightly longer than 90 minutes, one wonders what else might have been on the (two? three?) programs Gilels gave at the time—and will it eventually appear on DVD?

R.E.B. (August 2007)