WOLF: Verborgenheit. Er ist's. Elfenlied. Anakreons Grab. Mignon. STRAUSS: Befreit, Op. 39 No. 4. BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E
Renée Fleming, soprano; Dresden State Orch/Christian Thielemann, cond.
OPUS ARTE DVD TT: 106 min.

WAGNER: Parsifal
Johan Both (Parsifal). Wolfgang Koch (Amfortas). Milocho Boroving (Gurnemanz). Michaela Schuster (Kundry). Salzburg Festivel Childrens' Choir; Chorus and Orchestra of Bavarian Opera/Christian Thielemann, cond.
DGG DVD 00400734939 (2 disks) TT: 242 min.

MOZART: The Magic Flute
Pavol Breslik (Tamino). Kate Royal (Pamina). Dimitry Ivashchenko (Srastro). Ana Duriovski (Queen of the Night). Michael Nagy (Papagano). Regula Mühlemann (Papagena). James Elliott (Monastatos). Jose van Dam (Speaker). Berln Radio Chorus/Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Sir Simon Rattle, cond.
EUROARTS DVD TT: 163 min. + 43 min. bonus

Christian Thielemann's inaugural concert as Principal Conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle took place September 1, 2012 in Dresden's concert hall. Renée Fleming, in radiant voice, was soloist in five lieder of Hugo Wolf, a welcome change from the Strauss Four Last Songs one might have anticipated. The Wolf songs are exquisite and heard in the composer's orchestration except for Elfenlied, orchestrated by Günther Raphael. All are gems of the vocal repertory and make a splendid start for this important concert. As an encore, Fleming returns to Richard Strauss with a rich rendition of Befreit. The main work is Bruckner's mighty Symphony No. 7. Thielemann is considered a Bruckner specialist, with brisk tempi overall, and powerful climaxes. Less than a year ago, this site mentioned a superb video of Thielmann conducting the Munich Philharmonic in symphonies 4 and 7 (REVIEW). Compelling music-making throughout in this concert, as he first-class orchestra responds warmly to their new director's precise conducting. Video and audio are state-of-the-art on this issue, but it is is disappointing in that the DVD booklet does not give a listing of tracks and timings and, surprisingly, the DVD does not provide subtitles essential for the relatively unknown Wolf songs. How could a major company overlook something as important as this?

Thielemann also stars in this production of Parsifal, the latest of many videos of the opera (there are at least eight). This is from this year's Salzburg Festival, directed b Michael Schulz, with set and costumes by Alexander Polzin. The decision was made to use a somewhat smaller orchestra, thus the rich sounds usually associated with this music are not as plush as one might expect. However, this does result in unusual clarity, which some might find fascinating. Singers are excellent in every way, but I found the director's decision to have actors for each of the main roles on stage representing perhaps their emotions at the time. Five young boys, and later five young men, shadow Parsifal. Stark sets are imposing with large shafts of light, but white costumes and an almost empty stage often suggests spacemen on a barren planet. This is a different Parsifal, but one to which I will not return. Video and audio are superb.

It is seldom today to find perfection in a new operatic DVD, but this is as close as one can get. This Magic Flute is from the 2013 Easter Festival in Baden-Baden. Staging is b Robert Carsen, who respected Mozart, and although there are a few modern touches, nothing is out of place. Michael Levine did the simple sets. Right from beginning one can tel his is going to be a very special performance of Mozart's masterpiece. Orchestral detail and nuance are extraordinary. During the overture after on-screen credits, some of the performers march down the aisles and climb ono the stage which is built around the orchestra and they peer down into the orchestra pit. Effective and often beautiful backgrounds are projected, even with birds fling in the trees. The sense of fantasy is always present, and the cast is exceptionally fine in addition to being remarkably good looking. This is a class act all the way, with Jose Van Dam as the Speaker, and Rattle's wife, Magdalena Kozena as the Second Lady. projected backgrounds including ids flying in the trees. Kate Royal's Pamina is one of the finest you'll ever hear, and Ana Duriovski is spectacular as the Queen of the Night. Video and audio are excellent. The disk also includes comments by Sir Simon on the difficulties of conducting this opera, some interviews and behind the scenes episodes. This is a major issue—don't miss it!

.R.E.B. (November 2013).