WAGNER: Götterdämmerung
Lance Ryan (Siegfried). Gerd Grochowski (Gunther). Johannes Martin Kranzie (Alberich). Iréne Theorin (Brünnhlde). Mikhail Petrenko (Hagen). Anna Samuil (Gutrune). Waldtraud Meier (Waltraute). Margarita Meir, Waltraute Meier, Anna Samuil (Norns). Aga Mikolaj (Woglinde). Maria Gortsevskaya (Wellgunde). Anna Lapakovskaya (Flosshilde). Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala/Daniel Barenboim, cond.

PROKOFIEV: The Fiery Angel
Galina Gorchakova (Renata). Sergei Leiferkus (Ruprecht). Evgenia Perfasova-Verkovich (Hostess). Mikhail Kit (Porter). Larissa Dyadkova (Fortune-Teller). Eugene Boitsov (Jakob Gluck). Vladimir Galuzin (Agrippa). Yuri Laptev (Mathias). Valery Lebed (Doctor). Konstantin Pluzhnikov (Mephistopheles). Sergei Alexashkin (Faust). Eugeni Fedotov (Host).Chorus and Orchestra of Mariinsky Theatre/Valery Gergiev, cond.

BRITTEN: Death in Venice
(John Graham-Hall (Gustav von Asenbach). Andrew Shore (Traveller/Elderly Fop/Old Gondolier/Hotel Manager). Tim Mead (Voice of Apollo). Sam Zaldivar (Tadzio). Lura Caldow (Polish Mother). Mia Angelina Mather, Xhuliana Sehu (Two Daughters). Joyce Henderson (Governess). Marcio Telxera (Jaschiu). Charkes Johnston (Guide). ; dancers: Thomas Edwards, Gigliamo Garavini, Lincoln Mahon, Gabriella-Mc-Hard-Costaine, Harry Hancock Chorus and Orchestra of the English National Opera/Edward Gardner, cond.
OPUS ARTE DVD TT: 153 min.

With this Götterdämmerung we have the finale of the recent Ring cycle at La Scala conducted by Daniel Barenboim in a new production by Guy Cassier. Das Rheingold and Siegfried were unenthusiastically mentioned on this site (REVIEW). As with previous issues, spectacular use often is made of projections, although the video director determines what we see, which often is only a part of what the audience experienced. Lance Ryan's Siegfried is a weak unsuccessful attempt to sing a role beyond his capabilities. Irène Theorin's Brünnhilde does not impress. Much of her singing is sotto voce, her upper register slightly insecure. Excessive makeup is distracting. In the final scene she sings to a nonexistent horse, and simply leaps into the projected inferno, which is quite spectacular visually. I find little use for a video of a questionable production with two leading singers woefully inadequate.

We all know Prokofiev had a very wild side, but nowhere is this more evident than in his opera The Fiery Angel. This is based on novel by Valery Bryusov about experiences of Nina Petrovkaya, a woman who experienced visions and demonic possession. The young woman, named Renata in the opera, fantasized meeting an angel, Madiel, and fell in love with him only to be rejected although he did say he would return in human form. In her delusion, she thought he might have returned as Count Heinrich von Otterheim—or as Ruprecht, a man she had known for a long time. Her delusions are vividly depicted in Prokofiev's opera including the final wild orgy scene in which a group of nuns and Renata are accused of being possessed by the underworld and condemned to death. The performance on this DVD was filmed in 1993 and has been available on CD for some years. Now we have this spectacular DVD, magnificently filmed with excellent stereo sound. The performance cold not be bettered, with Galina Gorchakova early in her career, perfect dramatically and vocally. She is matched by another sterling Russian, Sergei Leiferkus as Ruprecht—the chemistry between them is remarkable. There is not a weak link in the entire cast, and David Roger's stark sets are effective. Director David Freeman has done everything right, and his staging imaginatively uses the dancers and St. Petersburg Mariinsky Acrobatic Troupe. Nothing is left to the imagination in the orgy scene. Gergiev is a master of this repertory. This is a major opera issue—don't miss it!

Benjamin Britten's last opera, Death in Venice, is an acquired taste, more a theatre piece with very distinctive music than what most people consider an opera to be. Based on the novella by Thomas Mann, with libretto by Myfanwy Piper, it relates the sad story of the German novelist Gustav von Ashenbach, despairing that his creative life had disappeared, who went to Venice in the hope of restoring it. Ashenbach meets a group of rather tragic unhappy people except for the young Polish boy Tadzio whose innocent perfection is in great contrast to almost everyone else. Tadzio is a non-singing role performed by a dancer, and Ashenbach only admires him from afar. The opera ends as Ashenbach, weak and disillusioned, having failed to restore his creativity sadly watched Tadzio as he walks into the sea.This is powerful drama and there is no question that Britten's score is a masterpiece. It is difficult to imagine a performance superior to what is viewed here in this brilliant imaginative production by
Deborah Warner premiered at the English National Opera in May 2007. No date is given for this particular performance. John Graham Hall is extraordinary; this as the pathetic Ashenbach. Tis young British tenor already has sung a variety of roles (including other Britten operas) to great success. We doubtless will hear much more of him. Video and audio are state-of-the-art. An outstanding DVD of an opera that challenges everyone.

R.E.B. (May 2014)