WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Walter Felsenstein Edition - Offenbach: Ritter Blaubart

Offenbach / Voigtmann / Nocker / Schlemm / Enders
Release Date: 09/29/2009 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 101293  
Composer:  Jacques Offenbach
Performer:  Ute Trekel-BurckhardtIrmgard ArnoldHans-Otto RoggeHelmut Polze,   ... 
Conductor:  Karl-Fritz Voigtmann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Comic Opera OrchestraBerlin Comic Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
This title is currently unavailable.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Jacques Offenbach
(sung in German)

Sire de Barbe-Bleue – Hanns Nocker
Boulotte – Anny Schlemm
King Bobèche – Werner Enders
Queen Clémentine – Ruth Schob-Lipka
Princess Hermia (Fleurette) – Ingrid Czerny
Prince Saphir (Daphnis) – Manfred Hopp
Popolani – Rudolf Asmus
Count Oscar – Helmut Polze
Alvarez – Hans-Otto Rogge
Isaure – Irmgard Arnold
Héloïse – Evelyn Bölicke
Eléonore – Eva-Maria Baum
Rosalinde – Christa Noack
Blanche – Ute Trekel-Burckhardt

Berlin Komische Oper Chorus and Orchestra
Karl-Fritz Voigtmann,
Read more conductor

Walter Felsenstein, stage director
Paul Lehmann, set design
Helga Scherff, costume design

- Script segments, sketches and drafts and performance segments of Bluebeard, Komische Oper 1964
- Interview with Walter Felsenstein regarding filming of Bluebeard (1973)
- Interview with Walter Felsenstein on production of Bluebeard (1963)
- Picture gallery: International guest performances of Bluebeard

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu languages: English, German, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
Running time: 139 mins (opera)
No. of DVDs: 2 (DVD9)


OFFENBACH Ritter Blaubart & Karl-Fritz Voigtmann, cond; Hanns Nocker ( Blaubart ); Anny Schlemm ( Boulotte ); Werner Enders ( King Bobèche ); Ruth Schob-Lipka ( Queen Clémentine ); Ingrid Czerny ( Fleurette/Princess Hermia ); Manfred Hopp ( Daphnis/Prince Saphir ); Rudolf Asmus ( Popolani ); Helmut Polze ( Count Oscar ); Berlin Komische Op O & Ch ARTHAUS 101 293 (2 DVDs: 139:00) Babelsberg 1973

& Interviews, picture gallery, sketches, script drafts, performance segments

This is a motion picture by the legendary theater director Walter Felsenstein of Offenbach’s Barbe-bleue (“Bluebeard”) in German. First produced on stage by Felsenstein and the Komische Oper Berlin in 1963, it proved so popular that the East German government used it as a cultural export. Ritter Blaubart , as it was known, traveled around the world, and was eventually performed 369 times before it was retired. Nine years after it was launched, and 163 performances into its life, Felsenstein took up the task of converting it from stage to film. It wasn’t to prove easy, as the director wanted fresh, creative solutions to problems brought on by the change of medium. He was ultimately pleased with the result, however, and it certainly has all the hallmarks of a professionally directed motion picture rather than an awkward attempt at one. In fact, the opening sequence—an exceptionally long and accomplished tracking shot created as a prelude to the operetta, purportedly showing a busy backstage filled with technicians before the staging of Ritter Blaubart —could easily be an homage to the late Max Ophuls, the great French film director, whose signature tracking shots and mix of wit with worldly cynicism were well known.

The operetta grows into the film. The pastoral first act is obviously and deliberately stagy, poking fun at the shepherds and shepherdesses of countless French operas since the early days of 18th-century opéra comique . By the second act, with its dungeon beneath Bluebeard’s castle and Bobèche’s royal throne room, we are fully immersed in realistic settings, even if they are obviously part of the parody world emphasizing typical Offenbach themes: mindless aristocratic protocol, court servility, cuckolded husbands, etc. The sudden pullback of the camera into the stage world just before the finale in act III, when the heroine declares bitterly that if the King and Bluebeard had actually committed the terrible crimes in real life they would have gotten away with them, because the rich and powerful always do—followed by the resolution to solve matters in true operetta fashion, with smiles and silliness, is handled brilliantly. It’s also one of the very few times Felsenstein imposes a mordant, personal sensibility on Offenbach’s musical soufflé. Elsewhere, he adheres to the spirit of the work and its time, even when he gets his musical staff to turn a piece of lengthy dialogue into a melodrama using themes from the opera.

The casting is excellent. If neither of the two female leads catches the slim, agile tone so much a part of the French light lyric soprano tradition (with Marthe Angelici and Suzanne Danco as good examples), both are fine singers, and Anny Schlemm is magnificently confident both acting and singing Boulotte. Hanns Nocker is a delight as Bluebeard, his well-produced heroic tenor surprisingly nimble, as French tenors of the 19th century were expected to be. Like the rest of the cast, he is also adept at comedy, though for most viewers the center of comic attention will be the tenuously sane King Bobèche of Werner Enders. A fine tenor, Enders has little to sing here, but creates a wonderful parody of a dictator that Mel Brooks, if he took his creative attention off Hitler for a while, would surely appreciate. Polze is Lubitsch-like suavity itself as Count Oscar, and the lovers, played by Czerny and Hopp, are suitably lyrical and saccharine. Only Rudolf Asmus seems slightly subdued, but that was no doubt how Felsenstein wanted Popolani played, presumably as a foil to Nocker’s histrionics. The Komische Oper Berlin chorus and orchestra are suitably bright and effective.

The film format is 4:1, with PCM stereo available. Sound and image are surprisingly good, with little of the wear or artifacts one might expect from a film of this vintage. Colors show trace shifts towards green in some of act II, but not sufficient to draw notice if one isn’t looking for it. Subtitles are available in English, German, French, and Spanish. For once, we’re offered a full DVD’s worth of special features, and they’re good. There are two interviews of Felsenstein at the time Ritter Blaubart was first staged and then filmed, as well as script segments, sketches, drafts, and performance segments (these last, filmed from the stage for directorial evaluation). They provide some fascinating insights into Felsenstein’s creative process and his views of the operetta.

At the current time there are several staged Offenbach operettas transferred to DVD. However, this particular one, recorded in German more than 35 years ago, remains among the best for its inventiveness, singing, appropriate sense of style, and ability to capture the satirical edge of the original. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Read less

Works on This Recording

Barbe-bleue by Jacques Offenbach
Performer:  Ute Trekel-Burckhardt (Alto), Irmgard Arnold (Soprano), Hans-Otto Rogge (Tenor),
Helmut Polze (Baritone), Hans Günther Nöcker (Bass), Ruth Schob-Lipka (Mezzo Soprano),
Werner Enders (Tenor), Anny Schlemm (Soprano), Ingrid Czerny (Soprano),
Manfred Hopp (Voice), Rudolf Asmus (Bass)
Conductor:  Karl-Fritz Voigtmann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Comic Opera Orchestra,  Berlin Comic Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1866; Paris, France 
Language: German 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title