JOHANN STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus.
Eberhard Wächter (Eisenstein); Pamela Coburn (Rosalinde); Brigitte Fassbaender (Orlofsky); Benno Kusche (Frank); Josef Hopferwieser (Alfred); Wolfgang Brendel (Dr. Falke); Ferry Gruber (Dr. Blind); Janet Perry (Adele); Franz Muxeneder (Frosch); Ivan Unger (Ivan); Irene Steinbeisser (Ida); Bavarian State Ballet, Chorus and Orch/Carlos Kleiber, cond.

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4 in B flat, Op. 60. Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Carlos Kleiber, cond.
PHILIPS DVD VIDEO B0003880-09 72 min.

MOZART: Symphony No. 36 in C, K. 425 "Linz." BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73.
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Carlos Kleiber, cond.
PHILIPS DVD VIDEO B0003881-09 72 min.

PUCCINI: Turandot
Lucille Udovich (Turandot); Franco Corelli (Calaf); Renata Mattioli (Liu); Nino del Sole (Emperor); Plinio Clabassi (Timur); Mario Borriello (Ping); Mario Carlin (Pang); Renato Ercolani (Pong); Teodoro Rovetta (Mandarin); Chorus and Orchestra of the Italian Milan Radio and Television/Fernando Previtali, cond. (also Tosca excerpt with Corelli/Lisa Della Casa)

All of these DVD videos are of major interest to collectors. The first three offer two Beethoven symphonies filmed in 1983 in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Mozart and Brahms symphonies filmed October 6-7, 1991 in Vienna's Musikverein October 6-7, 1991, and a captivating performance of Johann Strauss's Die Fledermaus televised during a live performance in 1987 at the Bavarian State Opera. It's a pleasure to watch the conducting of Kleiber, who died July 2004 at the age of 74. His mood is positive, his movements direct and unaffected, and he surely gets superb results. Horant H. Hohlfeld was executive producer of both symphonic DVDs, with Volker Straus in charge of sound recording for the two Beethoven symphonies; he was in charge of engineering Concertgebouw Orchestra Philips recordings for many years, and here is some of his finest work. John Mordier was audio producer for the Mozart/Brahms recordings and he, too, achieved a very realistic, natural, wide-range sound. Fledermaus was directed for television by Brian Large, a guarantee of a first-class production. The sound on all three of these DVD audio disks is splendid, but not true 5.1 surround. Notes state that AMSI (Ambient Sound Imaging), a new technology developed by Emil Berliner Studios, converts the original stereophoinic audio into "authentic 5.1 surround sound." Well, not quite "authentic," but the rear channels are used in a pleasant way to add ambience to the sound picture. The two symphony DVDs contain an item called "DVD Trailer" which actually is a short series of excerpts from various Kleiber DVDs. The same item, only identified as "Carlos Kleiber - The Legend" is on the Fledermaus DVD. The Mozart/Brahms disk also contains a gallery of 80 photos of the conductor. Packaging is basic for the two symphony DVDs. The Fledermaus booklet includes not only a listing of the many tracks for the operetta, but an explanation of stage action—very helpful, even for those who are familiar with the operetta.

Turandot is an Italian telecast from December 23, 1958 featuring Franco Corelli at his peak—really quite amazing. The title role is sung by Lucille Udovich, who was born in Colorado in 1920 and enjoyed considerable success in Italy during the '50's. She has a firm if rather unexciting voice, a better Turandot than many. The Liu of Renata Mattioli is superb, the remainder of the cast very good. This is a TV studio production with limited space and sets; Turandot's famed stairway has six steps. There are intriguing kabuki effects in this production directed by Mario Lanfranchi. The performance is highly entertaining and, like all of these Italian TV productions, was recorded first, filmed later, with the inevitable lip sync problems. The brief Tosca excerpt is from a Bell Telephone Hour telecast of 1962 already available in VAI's Great Stars of Opera, Volume 2. Lovers of Turandot and Corelli won't want to miss this one.

R.E.B. (January 2005)