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Robert Benson, December 2010

MOZART: Zauberflote (Die) (Hamburg State Opera studio production, 1971) (NTSC) 101265
BEETHOVEN: Fidelio (Hamburg State Opera studio production, 1968) (NTSC) 101275

Here are two more operas in historic performances from the Hamburg State Opera which at the time was led by Rolf Liebermann. Both operas were pre-recorded before filming and lip-sync is only occasionally noticed.The 1971 Magic Flute is based on an imaginative production by Peter Ustinov, with colorful costumes by Jens-Denis Malcès. Casting is near perfect particularly Gedda, Mathis and Sotin. William Workman and Carol Malone are an ideal pair of young lovers. Cristina Deutekom dispatches the Queen of the Night’s coloratura with pinpoint accuracy. This is a highly entertaining performance. Fidelio has appropriately stark sets designed by Wilhelm Reinking, and a splendid cast. Soprano Anja Silja had a distinguished career before this video was made. She made her debut about 12 years earlier, and continued singing a wide variety of roles through the ’90’s. Her voice never was particularly beautiful, but she immersed herself in everything she sang, and her Leonore is, aside from a few rather stretched high notes, a totally believable characterization, an exciting artist at her best. Richard Cassily, then at the the height of his career, is an ideal Florestan. Both of these videos are welcome additions to the catalog, giving us the opportunity to see some of the top singers of the past century.

Penguin Guide, January 2009

The Arthaus DVD offers a studio recording of 1968, directed by Joachim Hess, with an excellent cast miming to the film, which uses many illuminating close-ups…the quality of the performance under Leopold Ludwig makes a powerful impact. This was a period when all the principal singers were at their peak, so that Anja Silja as Leonore gives a strong performance, often tenderly beautiful…Lucia Popp is delightfully young and fresh as Marzelline, and Theo Adam as Pizarro is far steadier in his singing…acting with sinister power, wonderfully evil. Ernst Wiemann as Rocco and Erwin Wohlfahrt as Jaquino (an engagingly plump figure) are both excellent, and Hans Sotin is luxury casting as Don Fernando.

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