S. WAGNER: The Goblin
'LE VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE"
This Aida was a very special production. It took place December 1985 at La Scala and was Luciano Pavarotti's first performance as Radames in Italy. It also was the first Aida sung by Maria Chiara at La Scala; both Pavarotti and Chiara are in fantastic voice. Pavarotti knew what the audience wanted, and provided it—his ringing B flat at the end of "Celeste Aida" was brilliant and confident, and the audience, expectedly, went crazy. Pavarotti was very large at the time. DVD notes state he was "possibly more monumental than any has been before." Staging, fortunately, didn't require him to move much. He is especially awkward in the final scene paired with Maria Chiara, a beautiful, svelte soprano, who moves easily and gracefully. Mauro Pagano's stage set doesn't amount to much, and Vera Marzot's costumes are colorful. .Nicolai Ghiaurov as Ramphis and Paata Burchuladze as the King are in top form, as are the chorus and orchestra. With its flaws, this still is an exciting night at the opera, essential for Pavarotti fans. . A second disk offers interviews and comments about the opera and the performers.
Through the efforts of Peter Pachi many of Siegfried Wagner's works have been recorded or filmed. Pachi's latest effort is this DVD of the third of Wagner's son's sixteen operas, Der Kobold (The Goblin). When this was first presented in Berlin February 20, 1904, the audience included Cosima Wagner, Humperdinck and other musical celebrities. Ovations were the order of the night, but critics were not kind, saying the opera is "not a great work," and his attempt to unite the real and the fantastic failed. The critics were correct. Der Kobold is about a goblin who is searching for redemption; the goblin represents souls of small children who cannot die because they cannot find rest. The principal character is Verena who in the final scene dies to bring deliverance to the goblin(s). The music is often lovely but prosaic, and the action is static. Subtitles are important (even when there are misspelled words), but with an opera as obscure as this, it is important to have more detailed background information, not just a listing of tracks by act. is of that is taking place. It is of little help to the viewer to know that track 8 is Scene 7 of Act I and that the length is 18:20. What's going on? And the opera is three and a half hours long! Sets are barren, costumes are adequate. This production obviously is a labor of love for the performers and producers, but for most Der Kobold, like other operas of Wagner's son, is only a curiosity. There are "extras": a film on the making of the video, a 3D animated version of the set, and many photographs.
Those interested in historic films will welcome the unique treatment given to the Georges Melies 1904 Sci-Fi classic Le Voyage dans la Lune. This movie was a sensation when first released. Melies, after some experimental films in Paris, decided to make a film of Jules Verne's classic. He designed sets and costumes as well as the many remarkable special effects (for their time) of explosions, puffs of smoke and underwater scenes. It was a very expensive project and Melies hoped to bring it to the 1904 World's Fair in the United States—but, unfortunately, agents from the Thomas Edison Company stole a copy and showed it throughout the U. S. before Melies arrived, bankrupting the producer. ERM Media approached four contemporary composers and asked them to write a complete score for the film, which is what is heard here: the short movie (12 min) is seen four times, each time with the score by each composer. All are effective, and I imagine Melies would have been delighted. A welcome oddity!
R.E.B. (November 2009)