I wanted to be the first to review this because I know there were will be several decrying this production for its Eurotrash qualities. For the record, I'm not always the biggest fan of modernist interpretations either, but in this case I think it works...most of the time.
The action takes place entirely inside the characters' bedrooms, which is probably enough to warn some people away from this performance right off the bat. Is the director suggesting that the events occur in the characters' dreams and/or imaginations? I'm not sure. At any rate, the bedroom angle isn't much of a distraction, and I suggest sticking with this in order to enjoy the overall surrealism and bizarreness of the experience. Granted, there are a few minor details that don't work(there almost always are in these regietheater offerings): Renato pointing a gun at Riccardo and contemplating shooting him in the first act, before he's even aware of his betrayal; Amelia considering suffocating her husband with a pillow before going off to pick the magical roots; people other than Riccardo rolling around on his bed during the scene with Ulrica; and, worst of all, Oscar unbuttoning his shirt in front of Renato at the masked ball as if to show him that he really is a woman and not just a trouser role, and then expressing unrequited love for the man. Huh? As for the recurring ventriloquist's dummy, that's strictly a matter of taste. But as I said before, overall the thing works, at least for me, even though I'm not exactly sure what's being put across here. Visually, this production is reminiscent of the one the Met currently has running in that it's dark and shadowy and of uncertain(and unstable) reality, which is a perfectly valid way of looking at the opera. It's engaging to look at and presents some interesting and abstract ideas and for the most part doesn't betray the themes of Verdi's work, it's nightmarish and with a decadent, fin de siecle quality, with touches of black humor, again things that are perfectly compatible with the piece, and for these reasons I give it my hearty recommendation.
But of course the main reason to purchase this is that you won't, to my knowledge, find a more well-sung or well-acted performance. Sure, there are always curmudgeons who grumble that today's singers can't compete with the Golden Age. Those people should watch, and listen to this. Anja Harteros is one of the great contemporary sopranos, and is particularly striking when singing Verdi, always offering an intensely passionate performance, and quite frankly her voice gives me the chills. All the conflicts her character goes through, inner and outer, are gorgeously expressed. Piotr Beczala is in great voice here, it starts strong and keeps getting stronger, and as for his physical interpretation, I actually prefer it to Domingo's or Pavarotti's. Not to take anything away from those two great singers, but they played Riccardo with perhaps too much nobility. Beczala's Riccardo is a disheveled and dissipated mess, which is likely more in line with the composer's intentions. It certainly makes sense considering the character's overall hubris and obliviousness to discord, his constant pleasure-seeking and devil-may-care attitude, plus his touch of nihilism that leads him to self-destructive behavior. He spends most of the opera in his nightclothes, only donning more elegant wear when he undergoes his redemption. Plus, he and Harteros make an attractive couple, or almost-couple, which isn't mandatory in these outings but isn't a setback either. As for the other singers, I wasn't familiar with their work prior to this but all reward the audience with standout performances. George Petean has a strong baritone voice, and his descent into destructive vengeance is convincing. As for Okka von der Damerau, she wisely doesn't overplay the role physically or vocally but presents herself as more of an observer than a catalyst. Still, her constant presence throughout the opera does present the idea that, like Monterone's curse in Rigoletto, her powers and prophecies are intimately bound with the events that transpire. Oh, and she's probably the sexiest Ulrica I've ever seen, but of course the glamorous outfit doesn't hurt. Sofia Fomina as Oscar, and Anatoli Sivko and Scott Conner as Samuel and Tom, all give committed performances that add to the power and peculiarities of the drama. Finally, Zubin Mehta navigates this diverse and masterful score at a slower tempi than I'm accustomed to hearing, but it's never languorous, certainly never boring, in fact it's one of the shortest two and a half hours you'll ever spend. There's nothing wrong with a hard-driven approach to Verdi, a la Levine or Chailly, but there's also something to be said for a more relaxed reading that still manages to encompass every ounce of drama and fervor and insight while luxuriating in the brilliant orchestration.
I highly recommend reading Malte Krasting's comments in the liner notes, for they offer some interesting insights on the opera I had never before considered, and line up with what we're seeing onstage. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as a person's first experience with this masterwork, because the staging does sometimes confuse the events as they're written in the libretto, but if you're a Ballo aficionado(like me; it's one of my favorites!) and willing to experiment with an off-key interpretation, then give this one a try.
- Format: Widescreen
- Language: German
- Subtitles: Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: Naxos Deutschland Musik & Video Vertriebs-GmbH / Poing
- DVD Release Date: 24 Mar 2017
- Run Time: 149 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B06W52CPGQ