Johann Strauss: Die Fledermaus
Jacques Offenbach: La Belle Hélène
Franz Lehár : Die lustige Witwe
Wiener Staatsoper, Théâtre musical de Paris, Zürcher Opernhaus (see complete casts below)
A three-DVD box-set
Bernd Weikl (Gabriel von Einsenstein), Lucia Popp (Rosalinde), Erich Kunz (Frank), Brigitte Fassbaender (Prinz Orlofsky), Josef Hopferweiser (Alfred), Walter Berry (Dr. Falke), Anton Wendler (Dr. Blind), Edita Gruberova (Adele), Karin Göttling (Ida), Helmut Lohner (Frosch), Karl Caslavsky (Iwan), Orchestra, Chorus, and Ballet of the Vienna State Opera, Norbert Balatsch (Chorus Master), Theodor Guschlbauer (Conductor), Otto Schenk (Director), Günter Schneider-Siemssen (Set Design), Milena Canonero (Costume Design), Gerlinde Dill (Choreography), Otto Schenk (TV Director)
Recorded live from the Vienna State Opera (December 1980) – 169’
Sound format: PCM Stereo – Picture format: 4:3 – Region Code: 0
Arthaus Musik Ref. #: NTSC 107153 - Sung in German with subtitles in French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, & German
This 1980 production of Die Fledermaus received rave reviews in the German-speaking world when it premiered in 1980, so much so that the Austrian Television decided to broadcast it, a year later, to a million viewers’ delight. Thirty-some years after, this DVD is showing signs of its age mostly because of a technology that has made gigantic progress since then. Today, the filming appears hesitant, the colors a bit bright and flashy, and the picture reveals poor resolution; but again, this was in 1980. Otto Schenk pens a production in the best Viennese tradition, but what really stands out in this DVD is the stellar cast gathered for the occasion. Even small parts are held by world-class singers. The greatest names of the operatic microcosm deliver a stunning vocal and acting performance, making a perfect demonstration, if necessary, that operetta is not a minor genre. All of them are excellent in their part. This DVD, if only for the singers, is an excellent choice.
La Belle Hélène :
Felicity Lott (Hélène), Yann Beuron (Pâris), Michel Sénéchal (Ménélas), Laurent Naouri (Agamemnon), François Leroux (Calchas), Marie-Ange Todorovitch (Oreste), Éric Huchet (Achille), Alain Gabriel (Ajax I), Laurent Alvaro (Ajax II), Hjördis Thébault (Bacchis), Stéphanie d’Oustrac (Lœna), Magali Léger (Parthénis, Philocome), José Canalès (speaking role)
Orchestra and chorus Les Musiciens du Louvre – Grenoble, Sébastien Roulan (Chorus Master), Marc Minkovski (Conductor), Laurent Pelly (Direction and costumes), Chantal Thomas (Sets), Joël Adam (Lights), Laura Scozzi (Choreography), Ross Macgibbon (TV Director)
Recorded live at the Théâtre musical de Paris, Châtelet (2000) – 127’
Sound format: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1 – Picture format: 16:9 – Region code: 0
Arthaus Musik Ref. #: 107000 – Sung in French with subtitles in English, German, Spanish, Italian, & French
When Jérôme Savary’s famed production of La Belle Hélène premiered at the Paris Opéra Comique in 1983, one was under the impression that Offenbach’s masterpiece would never be better staged (sorry, no DVD). Yet, director Laurent Pelly, seventeen years later and with a concept that is not so remote from Savary’s, takes up the enormous challenge and brilliantly succeeds in spawning a continuous stream of visual humour. His direction is hilarious, sometimes delightfully farcical, but always remains within the boundaries of good taste. The core idea of Pelly’s clever staging is that the action takes place in the imagination of a sleeping, sex-starved, suburban housewife.
The musical performance, especially Dame Felicity Lott’s as a commanding Hélène and Michel Sénéchal’s irresistible Ménélas, is remarkable. Also praiseworthy is Laura Scozzi’s humorous and creative choreography. Last but not least, the Musiciens du Louvre – Grenoble under Minkowski’s highly spirited baton make a strong case for their versatility.
Die lustige Witwe:
Dagmar Schellenberger (Hanna Glawari), Rodney Gilfry (Danilo), Rudolf A. Hartmann ((Baron Mirko Zeta), Ute Gfrerer (Valencienne), Piotr Beczala (Camille de Rosillon), Herbert Prikopa (Njegus), Boguslaw Bidzinski (Vicomte de Cascada), Guido Götzen (Bogdanowitsch), Mary O’Sullivan (Sylviane), Rolf Haunstein (Kromow), Carine Séchehaye (Olga), Thomas Pütz (Pritschitsch), Eva Maria Kaufmann (Praskowia)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Zurich Opera, Franz Welser-Möst (Conductor), Helmut Lohner (Direction), Rolf Langenfass (Sets and Costumes), Robertus Cremer (Lights), Giorgio Madia (Choreography), Anton Reitzenstein (Video Director)
Recorded live from the Zurich Opera House (2004) – 125’
Sound format: PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 – Picture format: 16:9 – Region code: 0
Arthaus Musik Ref. #: NTSC 100451 - Sung in German with subtitles in French, English, Japanese, Spanish, & German
Lavish sets, luxurious costumes, a very bubbly third act, excellent orchestra and conductor, voices that fit the genre, and first class acting are the ingredients of this Zurich production. Dagmar Schellenberger (Hanna Glawari) delivers a good vocal performance, delicate, sensitive, just a tiny bit too serious, though. Los Angeles native Rodney Gilfry (Danilo) has had hundreds of occasions to polish a role he has sung all over the world to much acclaim. Supporting roles are just as good: Ute Greferer is a superb Valencienne and Herbert Prikopa a perfect Njegus. Curtain calls conclude a superb presentation with Welser-Möst joining in the cancan encore wearing Valencienne’s pink boa, while Prikopa is in the pit conducting the orchestra in the reprise.
This is a very fine DVD that audiences with a more classical taste will most likely prefer over the San Francisco 2002 production released by Opus Arte.