'TOUCH THE SOUND" - Improbable Journey of Nobuyuki Tsujii

STRAUSS: Ariadne auf Naxos
Soile Isokowski (Ariadne/Prima Donna). Laua Claycomb (Zerbinetta). Sergey Skorokhodov (Bacchus). Tomas Allen (Music Master). Kate Lindsey (Composer). London Philharmonic Orc/ Vladimir Jurowski, cond.
OPUS ARTE DVD TT: 121 min. + 21 min. bonus

VERDI: Overture to I Vespri Siciliani. Arias from Don Carlos, Il Corsaro, Nabucco and Oberto. WAGNER: Music from Tannhäuser and Lohengrin. RAVEL: La valse. MASSENET: Arias from Le Cid and Herodiade.
Rolando Villazón, tenor. Thomas Hampson, baritone. Bavarian Radio Chorus and Orch/Yannic Nézet-Seguin, cond.
C MAJOR DVD TT: 111 min.

The remarkable Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii is profiled in this fine documentary by Peter Rosen. It covers his entire life and we have interviews with his parents and his teachers. We can see the learning process he experiences, and how he learns very challenging scores. One can only admire this young man who has overcome a major obstacle and triumphed in the piano world. We see excerpts from many of his competition victories and concerts, and throughout he seems to be a dedicated musician who loves the piano. A fine and often inspiring documentary, beautifully filmed and recorded!

Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos is rather well represented on DVD. This site mentioned the Vienna State Opera 1977 production conducted by Karl Böhm featuring Gundula Janowitz (REVIEW), the 1965 Salzburg Festival production again witt Böhm featuring Sena Jurinac (REVIEW), James Levine's 2003 Met production with Deborah Voight (REVIEW) (also available is Levine's 1988 Met performance with Jessye Norman). There also is a Boston Symphony production conducted by Erich Leinsdorf from 1969 with Beverly Sills' dazzling as Zerbinetta (REVIEW). One of today's leading Straussians, soprano Emily Magee, can be seen in a disappointing 2006 Zurich Opera production with a misguided director (REVIEW). Now we have this new production directed by Katherina Thomas presented last year at Glyndebourne. Thomas has updated the scenario to the second world war and it takes place in a large home with hospital beds. There are changes to the plot, most obvious of which is there is no Bacchus; he is now a soldier. Dress is modern for the era, Zerbinetta's very sketchy—it is fortunate that Laura Clayton has a body that accommodates this strikingly, and her sexuality is ever apparent. Soile Isokoski sings the title role magnificently, but the camera is not kind to her girth. Surely there is much to enjoy in this production, which has been beautifully filmed with outstanding audio as well. And Vladimir Jurowski's conducting could not be bettered—he is particularly known to opera lovers for his stupendous Die Frau Ohne Schatten. I imagine most viewers will wish to skip this unusual Ariadne.

Munich began presenting a gala big-scale outdoor concert (The Odeonsplaz Concert) in 2,000, and each year's concert has had a special dedication. July 6, 2013, the concert commemorated Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra and large chorus conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, along with tenor Rolando Villazón and baritone Thomas Hampson. The DVD's title is Verdi & Wagner, but there is a French element with arias by Massenet and Ravel's La Valse. The huge audience seems to enjoy the odd program although response is quite timid after some of the lesser-known items. It does seem strange to perform La Valse in the center of the concert. Both singers are in top form—it is good to see that Villazón has recovered from surgery to correct a medical problem in 2007. Nézet-Séguin's vital conducting adds much to the occasion. The large chorus is superb, particularly in the concluding famous chorus from Nabucco. This event somehow lacks any element of festivity.

R.E.B. (September 2014)