MOZART: Die Zauberflöte
"THE ART OF CHOPIN" - A Film by Gérard Caillat
Here are two more operas in historic performances from the Hamburg State Opera which at the time was led by Rolf Liebermann. Both operas were pre-recorded before filming and lip-sync is only occasionally noticed.The 1971 Magic Flute is based on an imaginative production by Peter Ustinov, with colorful costumes by Jens-Denis Malcès. Casting is near perfect particularly Gedda, Mathis and Sotin. William Workman and Carol Malone are an ideal pair of young lovers. Cristina Deutekom dispatches the Queen of the Night's coloratura with pinpoint accuracy.This is a highly entertaining performance. Fidelio has appropriately stark sets designed by Wilhelm Reinking, and a splendid cast. Soprano Anja Silja had a distinguished career before this video was made. She made her debut about 12 years earlier, and continued singing a wide variety of roles through the '90's. Her voice never was particularly beautiful, but she immersed herself in everything she sang, and her Leonore is, aside from a few rather stretched high notes, a totally believable characterization, an exciting artist at her best. Richard Cassily, then at the the height of his career, is an ideal Florestan. Both of these videos are welcome additions to the catalog, giving us the opportunity to see some of the top singers of the past century.
Gérard Caillat's film The Art of Chopin is a brief illustrated story of the composer interspersed with snippets of performances by famous pianists. Most of these were recorded early in their careers: Evgeny Kissin, Bella Davidovich, Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimerman. There is a tantalizing bit of Vladimir Horowitz playing a Chopin etude. One wonders why complete performances weren't included. Sviatoslav Richter's unbelievable Chopin C# minor Etude is cut off, but you can see the entire performance on a Medici Arts DVD (REVIEW). Garrick Ohlsson, who won the Chopin Competition in 1970 and is now considered to be among the finest performers of his music, is featured discussing the music and how to play it. The second disk offers live performances of the two concertos recorded August 29, 2009 at the Warsaw Philharmonic played to perfection by Ohlsson with Antoni Wit on the podium and the Warsaw Philharmonic that probably has played this music more than any other orchestra. Unfortunately, video and audio are substandard with poor balances. It is surprising that a recording made so recently would have audio as poor as this. Check out the same two concertos played respectively by Nicolai Demidenko and Evgeny Kissin with the same orchestra and conductor recorded in February 2010—what a difference in video and sound! (REVIEW). It is unfortunate that producers did not supply a printed list of contents including dates and venues.
R.E.B. (December 2010)