IOAN HOLENDER FAREWELL CONCERT
JANÁCEK: The Cunning Little Vixen
PORTER: Kiss Me, Kate
Ioan Holender was director of the Vienna State Opera 1991-2010 and to commemorate and honor his tenure and departure, there was a mammoth gala concert in the Vienna State Opera House June 26, 2010, most of which is included in this intriguing 2-disk set. Almost 40 selections are included: for a complete listing check the ArkivMusik LINK. You'll experience performances by many leading singers of today as well as some who are lesser-known. On occasion, video excerpts are shown during the performance taken from original productions at the Vienna State Opera. There are three video screens on stage at all times showing closeups of performers. Many singers appear twice, and enthusiasm runs high throughout. For most, doubtless the high point will be Anna Netrebko's scene from Massenet's Manon. There is much to enjoy here, and the two disks sell for the price of one. Recommended!
Leos Janácek (1854-1928) composed his opera The Cunning Little Vixen late in his life; the premiere was in 1924. It was inspired by a Czech comic-strip about the life of animals, but when the composer wrote the libretto he turned it into something darker: the cycle of life and death of animals. Still Vixen is light fare in the works of Janácek, and it contains many delightful, charming interludes. This video of a 1965 German film is is one of a superb series of opera videos directed by Walter Felsenstein. You probably won't be familiar with most of the singers, but they are excellent. You surely will know the conductor Václav Neumann, a master of things Czech. He has a long association with music of Jánacek, and has two previous recordings of Vixen. Soloists with the chorus and orchestra of the Berlin Komische Opera gave more than 200 stage performances before this recording was made. The perfect sets and realistic costumes are by Rudolf Heinrich, Herbert Michel and Gundolf Foizik. Like all other videos in the Felenstein Edition, this performance is sung in German. Video is black and white, reasonably good for its age, audio acceptable, capturing the voices better than the orchestra. The intriguing extra features are a definite plus, including interviews with Walter Felenstein, and Rudolf Heinrich's Vixen Forest. This is an essential issue for those who love Janácek's music.
For over a half century, Hallmark Hall of Fame has presented a series of plays and musicals, an average of four or five productions a year featuring some of the finest actors and musicians of the time. Some of these have already been issued on DVD and now we have the latest: Kiss Me, Kate, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, from a telecast November 20, 1958. Because of time limitations, a few songs had to be eliminated, but all of the big hits are there including Why Can't You Behave?, Wunderbar, So In Love, Another Op'nin', another Show, and I Hate Men. Broadway stars Alfred Drake, Patricia Morison, Julie Wilson and Bill Hayes are featured with Franz Allers conducting. Very modest production values by today's standards, but the enthusiastic performances please, black and white photography is adequate, and mono sound reasonably well balanced, although rather thin.
R.E.B. (March 2011)