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Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro / Blankenburg, Mathis, Schmidt-Isserstedt

Mozart / Krause / Saunders / Blankenburg
Release Date: 11/21/2006 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 101263  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Kurt MarschnerArlene SaundersHeinz Horst BlankenburgEdith Mathis,   ... 
Conductor:  Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg State Opera ChorusHamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: Dolby Digital Mono
Region code: 0 (all)
Subtitle Languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian
Menu Languages: German, English, French, Spanish
Running time: 170 mins
No. of DVDs: 1


MOZART The Marriage of Figaro Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, cond; Tom Krause ( Count Almaviva ); Arlene Saunders ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Countess Almaviva ); Heinz Horst Blankenburg ( Figaro ); Edith Mathis ( Susanna ); Elisabeth Steiner ( Cherubino ); Maria von Ilosvay ( Marcellina ); Noël Mangin ( Bartolo ); Kurt Marschner ( Basilio ); Hamburg St PO & Op Ch ARTHAUS 101263, mono (DVD: 170:00) 1967

This is a good, traditional staging of Le nozze di Figaro —but note, please, that this is called Die Hochzeit des Figaro . It is a German-language version, filmed on the sets of the Hamburg State Opera in 1967. If you can’t bear to hear “Will der Herr Graf” in the place of “Se vuol ballare,” you really shouldn’t bother with the rest of this review. If you can accept the linguistic sea change, this conventional production will bring distinct pleasure. The cast ranges from good to excellent, both vocally and dramatically, with Blankenburg’s mercurial Figaro, Mathis’s sparkling Susanna, and Kurt Marschner’s delightfully droll Basilio at the head of the class. Arlene Saunders disappoints slightly with some sloppily sketched notes, and Tom Krause’s often inexpressive features make the act IV finale less impressive than it should be, but the performers work together as only a true ensemble can. Schmidt-Isserstedt surprisingly rushes the Countess’s arias, but otherwise turns in a creditable job.

The film was one of 13 commissioned by Rolf Liebermann for television broadcast. It was directed by Joachim Hess, who worked well with the camera crew to achieve a variety of intelligently chosen perspectives. The results are neither fidgety nor static, but shift location, distance, and angle appropriately, according to the needs of the work and the production. It’s a traditional one, and very good of its kind, with excellent staging. I had only one problem with it: the placement of the Count between the two antagonistic groups in the last phrases of act II, as though he were their balance, when he most definitely belongs with the Marcellina/Bartolo/Basilio faction. But it’s a quibble, in light of what Hess achieves elsewhere.

Fine period-style sets were used by Ita Maximovna, but the age of the film and the poor state of its visual restoration has led to severe color fading most noticeable in the first pair of acts. Deep reds have retained their brilliance, while blues have suffered the worst, often turning light green. There’s also a fair amount of dirt present at all times, and a very occasional softness to the focus that never lasts for very long. I’ve seen older films that were in far worse shape, restored, and looked newer. A shame those techniques weren’t used in this case.

The sound, of course, is mono, but very clear and robust. This actually makes it easier to perceive the “seams” between the relatively dry environment used for the secco recitative and the more reverberant ambience of the musical sections. The cast is adept at lip sync, with few slips. Subtitles are provided in German, English, French, and Spanish.

In short, this is an attractively filmed version of Figaro in German, well paced, acted, and sung, with a generally strong cast. Look for the latest in visual quality elsewhere, but if that doesn’t bother you, I think you might well enjoy what the Hamburg State Opera had to offer here.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Le nozze di Figaro, K 492 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Kurt Marschner (Tenor), Arlene Saunders (Soprano), Heinz Horst Blankenburg (Baritone),
Edith Mathis (Soprano), Tom Krause (Baritone), Elisabeth Steiner (Mezzo Soprano),
Maria von Ilosvay (Alto)
Conductor:  Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg State Opera Chorus,  Hamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 1967 
Language: German 

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