WAGNER: Götterdämmerung
Siegfried Jerusalem (Siegfried); Bodo Brinkmann (Gunther); Philip Kang (Hagen); Günter von Kannen (Alberich); Anne Evans (Brünnhilde); Eva-Maria Bundschuh (Gutrune); Waltraud Meier (Waltraute); Hilde Leidland (Woglinde); Annette Küttenbaum (Wellgunde); Jane Turner (Flosshilde); Brigitta Svenden, Linda Finnie, Uta Priew (Norns); Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orch/Daniel Barenboim, cond.
WARNER CLASSICS DVD VIDEO R2 62321 (2 disks) TT: 270 min. + 13 min bonus

DONIZETTI: L'Elisir d'Amore
Anna Netrebko (Adina); Rolando Villazón (Nemorino); Leo Nucci (Belcore); Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (Dulcamara); Inna Los (Giannetta); Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orch/Alfred Eschsé, cond.

Edita Gruberova (Manon); Francisco Araiza (Des Grieux); Pierre Thau (Comte Des Grieux); Hans Helm (Lescaut); Wilfried Gahmlich (Guillot-Morfontaine); Georg Tichy (Brétigny); Donna Robin (Poussette); Margareta Hintermeier (Javotte); Axelle Gall (Rosette); Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orch/Adam Fischer, cond.
DGG DVD VIDEO 0440 073 4207 TT:167 min.

Götterdämmerung completes the DVD issue of Daniel Barenboim's Ring cycle from the 1991 Bayreuth Festival, which was directed by Harry Kupfer, with stage design by Hans Schavernoch, costumes by Reinhard Heinrich. I haven't seen the Rheingold, Walküre or Siegfried, but this final installment makes some impressive points. The set includes a discussion by Barenboim and John Tomlinson, who sings Wotan, about Kupfer's production, with many excerpts from the production. Most of this Götterdämmerung is quite beautiful visually and often effective, but I find it difficult to accept many of the director's ideas, including some of the main characters in modern dress, Brünnhilde singing to a horse that isn't there, a ring that is now more a tiara, and, at the conclusion, the world watching the demise of the earth on television as two very young children represent the future. The performance is excellent if not outstanding. Barenboim obviously loves this music, the orchestra is stunning, the sonic picture magnificent. The pluses make me wish to see the remainder of this production of Wagner's masterpiece.

The Vienna State Opera's presentation of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore in April 2005 is as good as it gets. The dream couple of opera, Rolando Villazón and Anna Netrebko, are both in fabulous voice, and are superb actors as well. Villazón shows remarkable acting ability, even juggling three apples! His "Una furtiva lagrima" stops the show and is encored. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo is outstanding as Dulcamara, veteran Leo Nucci shines as Belcore, and what one can one say about Netrebko—she is delightful in every way, totally secure vocally. The remainder of the cast is first class. Otto Schenk's production and direction includes lots of dancing, frolicking and stage action. Karina Fibich's video direction is excellent, including some effective shots from a camera above the stage. Excellent sound with just one debit—sometimes singers are too recessed. All in all, this is a superb release, and highly recommended. Subtitles are in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Slovak-born soprano Edita Gruberova (b. 1946) is featured in this Vienna State Opera production of Massenet's Manon recorded December 21, 1983. The coloratura, who made her debut in 1968, is still singing major roles today, and singing them very well. Although perhaps not at the level of Beverly Sills, whose Manon was recorded on CD in 1970, Gruberova comes very close. The Vienna State Opera has provided a uniformly strong cast, particularly Francisco Araiza as Des Grieux, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's production and costumes are ideal, and Adam Fischer, a favorite in Vienna since his first performance in 1973. Sonic quality is excellent although hardly 5.1 surround. Subtitles are in French, English, German, Spanish and Chinese.

R.E.B. (March 2007)