STRAUSS: Arabella
Renée Fleming (Arabella); Julia Kleiter (Zdenka); Morten Frank Larsen (Mandryka); Johan Weigel (Matteo); Zürich Opera House Chorus and Orch/Franz Welser-Möst, cond.
DECCA DVD VIDEO B0011380 TT: 147 min.

VIVALDI: Arias from L'Olimpide,Tito Manilo, Ottone in Villa, Judith triumphans, and Farnace
Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo-soprano; Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini, cond.
EMI CLASSICS DVD 216587 TT: 106 min.

D'ALBERT: Tiefland
Mathias Goerne (Sebastiano); László Polgár (Tommaso); Petra Maria Schnitzer (Marta); Peter Seiffert (Pedro); Valeriy Murga (Moruccio); Christiane Kohl (Pepa); Liuba Churchrova (Antonia);Kismara Pessati (Rosalia); Eva Libau (Nuri); Zürich Opera House Chorus and Orch/Franz Welser-Möst, cond.
EMI CLASSICS DVD 234482 TT: 142 min.

It is fortunate for the collector when a DVD appears of a performance that is totally satisfying—it doesn't happen often, and it surely doesn't here. This Zurich production of Strauss's Arabella has much to admire, particularly Renée Fleming's performance in the title role. Julie Kleiter is perfect both vocally and physically as Zdenka, Johan Weigel excellent as Matteo, and Sen Guo a dazzling Fiakmilli. Thomas Hampson was to have appeared as Mandryka; when he was indisposed, Morten Frank Larsen replaced him. Larsen surely has an attractive stage presence but, unfortunately, vocally he is severely taxed, particularly evident in his many scenes with Fleming. It's unfortunate they didn't reschedule the video until Hampson was available. Perhaps Fleming eventually will appear in another DVD of Arabella. It would be best to wait; in the meantime, the Decca 1977 version with Sir Georg Solti conducting a superb cast is the one to have (REVIEW).

Mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli created a sensation in 2000 with her Vivaldi concert in Théatre des Champs-Élysées with the chamber ensemble Il Giardino Armonico directed by Giovanni Antonini. It was a best-selling CD of the time, and the entire concert was issued on DVD by Arthaus Musik (DVD 100229). Directed by Brian Large, this is an exemplary production visually, with the camera almost always where it should be. And of course Bartoli is in spectacular vocal form, and when she sings one of the many "fury" arias you surely couldn't want to be the object of her rage. Apparently copyright for this issue has expired, as now the same video has been issued by EMI Classics. For vocal collectors, this is an essential.

D'Albert's seventh opera Tiefland had its premiere in 1903 and eventually achieved considerable popularity. The plot concerns the plight of Marta, forced to live with the wealthy landowner Sebastiano who had given a mill to her father. Sebastiano plans to marry a wealthy heiress, but still wants to keep Marta so he plans to have her marry the shepherd Pedro so she would still be available to him. The marriage takes place, but when Pedro learns of the arrangement, he tries to kill her but his love prevents him from doing so. During a fight with Sebastiano, Pedro strangles him and the opera ends as Pedro and Marta go back to the sunshine, freedom and light in the high mountains. Marta is a dramatic role and how fascinating it would have been to see Maria Callas and Montserrat Caballé in the role (both sopranos sang it early in their careers). In a recent Berlin performance, the role was sung by Madja Michael who would seem to be perfect for the part, surely more so than matronly Petra Maria Schnitzer in this Zürich production. Matthias Goerne is excellent as the villainous Sebastiano, Peter Seiffert disappoints as Pedro. I first heard Tiefland via the 1957 Philips recording with Paul Schöffler as Sebastiano, Hans Hopf as Pedro and the remarkable Gré Brouwenstein as Marta, with Rudolf Moralt conducting (again available, thanks to ArkivMusic). The magic of that performance will not be experienced on the new Stuttgart DVD.

R.E.B. (March 2009)