Cult Opera of the 1970s / Hamburg State Opera

Release Date: 10/28/2008
Label: Arthaus Musik
Catalog Number: 101261
Number of Discs: 10

Physical Format:

Notes and Editorial Reviews
Historical Studio productions from the Hamburg State Opera.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro (1967)

"...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... In short, this is an attractively filmed version of Figaro in German, well paced, acted, and sung..."
-- Barry Brenesal, FANFARE

Countess Almaviva – Arlene Saunders
Figaro – Heinz Blankenburg
Susanna – Edith Mathis
Cherubino – Elisabeth Steiner
Marcellina – Maria Von Ilosvay
Don Basilio – Kurt Marschner
Corps de Ballet of the Hamburg State Opera
Joachim Hess, director

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Zauberflöte (1971)

"...[C]harming, honest, and invariably true to the music... Where it shines brilliantly is in the singing. Nicolai Gedda recorded Tamino under Klemperer several years previously, but it was nowhere near as ardent or well sung as this performance: He caresses Pamina's portrait, and his breath control and legato are models of Mozartian singing... Edith Mathis' Pamina is simply lovely. No shrinking violet, she seems about to maul Monastatos in their first appearance; and her desire for the truth--'Die Wahrheit'--is strong and firm. 'Ach ich fühls' is graceful and sad and her phrasing is masterly... The role of Monastatos is taken, oddly but very convincingly, by a baritone, no less than Franz Grundheber, near the start of his career. Another oddity is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the Speaker, intoning with authority. Carol Malone's Papagena is pert and feathery. And please note a young Kurt Moll as one of the men in armor. Subtitles are provided in four languages. A fine addition to any collection!"
--Robert Levine,

Sarastro – Hans Sotin
Tamino – Nicolai Gedda
Speaker – Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Queen of the Night – Christina Deutekom
Pamina – Edith Mathis
Papageno – William Workman
Papagena – Carol Malone
Monostatos – Franz Grundheber
Two Men In Armour – Kurt Moll / Bernd Rüter
Sir Peter Ustinov, director

Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio (1968)

Florestan - Richard Cassilly
Leonore - Anja Silja
Rocco - Ernst Wiemann
Marzelline - Lucia Popp
Jaquino - Erwin Wohlfahrt
Don Pizarro - Theo Adam
Don Fernando - Hans Sotin
Joachim Hess, director

Carl Maria Von Weber: Der Freischütz (1968)

"...Performances are good, with Edith Mathis totally stealing the show. She’s an incredibly vivacious and lively Ännchen. Her voice is so pure and fresh, yet she manages nuances that indicate more depth of character – she is after all the 'sensible' one in contrast to the rather patchily constructed Agathe. Mathis is superlatively photogenic and animated – the camera 'makes love to her' as fashion photographers say... Also excellent is Gottlob Frick as Kaspar. His voice is so expressive that he can characterize the part neurotic tension... [I]f you’re interested in opera production, it gives valuable insight into how opera can be enhanced as art movie. And, Edith Mathis! Her singing alone should justify the price of this DVD."
-- Anne Ozorio, MusicWeb International

Max – Ernst Kozub
Kaspar – Gottlob Frick
Kilian – Franz Grundheber
Cuno – Toni Blankenheim
Agathe – Arlene Saunders
Annchen – Edith Mathis
Prince Ottokar – Tom Krause
A Hermit – Hans Sotin
Samiel – Bernhard Minetti
Hamburg State Opera Ballet
Gyula Trebitsch, director

Albert Lortzing: Zar und Zimmermann (1969)

"...The soloists, headed by Lucia Popp, are first-class. In 1969, Popp was at her prime, and here is heard at her freshest and very best. Singing and characterization are both superb and it is clear how she could win the hearts of her audience. Her frothy portrayal as Marie is magnetic. Her impish, vivacious charm and wide-eyed flirtations carry considerable charisma in Lieblich rotten sich die Wangen. I enjoyed this performance immensely. As a lyrical singer, Popp’s bright voice, never shrill, is on form as she demonstrates mastery of rapid passages and then effortlessly soars on long-held phrases..."
-- Raymond J Walker, MusicWeb International

Peter the Great – Raymond Wolansky
Peter Ivanov – Peter Haage
Van Bett – Hans Sotin
Marie – Lucia Popp
Admiral Lefort – Herbert Fliether
Lord Syndham – Noël Mangin
Marquis de Châteauneuf – Horst Wilhelm
Widow Browe – Ursula Boese
Officer – Franz Grundheber
Gyula Trebitsch, director

Jacques Offenbach: Orpheus in der Unterwelt (1971)

Pluto / Aristeus - William Workman
Euridyce - Elisabeth Steiner
Jupiter - Toni Blankenheim
Public Opinion - Liselotte Pulver
Orpheus - Kurt Marschner
Juno - Inge Meysel
Styx - Theo Lingen
Venus - Urszula Koszut
Minerva - Cvetka Ahlin
Mars - Franz Grundheber
Joachim Hess, director

Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1970)

"...Sets and costumes are highly realistic and we feel transported back to16th century Nuremberg... Giorgio Tozzi...makes a deeply humane, warm-hearted Hans Sachs, caring, loving but also authoritative and stern. He delivers his long and demanding role with untiring security and wonderful dark tone... Endearingly pretty and sweet-looking is Arlene Saunders as Eva and her crystal clear and warm voice combined with her looks makes her ideal for the role... Contributing to the overall success of this production is the playing of the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra under the experienced Leopold Ludwig. Although not one of the "star" conductors he had deep insights into Wagner’s music. Just listening to the act III prelude makes clear what a fine musician he is... The finale of act II with Beckmesser’s unsuccessful serenade is just as breakneck chaotic as one could wish... [W]hen in the future I want to bask in the humour, warmth and humanity of Wagner’s brightest creation, this is probably the version I will return to most often."
-- Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International

Hans Sachs – Giorgio Tozzi
Veit Pogner –Ernst Wiemann
Fritz Kothner – Hans-Otto Kloose
Sixtus Beckmesser – Toni Blankenheim
Walther von Stolzing – Richard Cassilly
David – Gerhard Unger
Eva –Arlene Saunders
Magdalene – Ursula Boese
Joachim Hess, director

Alban Berg: Wozzeck (1970)

"...The performances are glorious. Toni Blankenheim, in the title role, is quietly desperate. He never overacts or oversings. His role as a victim is complete because he can't quite grasp it and when he finally does snap it's horrendous and genuinely tragic. Sena Jurinac's great-looking Marie is a loving mother and a woman full of need, stuck in a world and relationship with little hope, and she sings every note, without shouting or undue histrionics. Hans Sotin's ramrod-straight, scornful Doctor is beautifully sung and truly terrifying. The Captain of Gerhard Unger is totally in-your-face (and he's filmed that way as well), unafraid of the weird, whistle-like high notes or his odd behavior... This is a production, a film, that gets to the psychology of this complex work like a laser-beam. Bruno Maderna's conducting is clear and clean; what we hear is what the camera registers, and he keeps the singers scrupulously close to the notes of the Sprechstimme, making certain that they are notes, indeed. The monaural sound is fine, and the picture I suspect is as clear as the directors wanted it to be, adding to the overall dankness. Don't miss this."
-- Robert Levine,

Wozzeck - Toni Blankenheim
Drum Major - Richard Cassilly
Andres - Peter Haage
Captain - Gerhard Unger
Doctor - Hans Sotin
Workman I - Kurt Moll
Workman II - Franz Grundheber
The Fool - Kurt Marschner
Marie - Sena Jurinac
Margret - Elizabeth Steiner
Joachim Hess, director

Gian Carlo Menotti: Help, Help, the Globolinks! (1969)

"...It is difficult to imagine a finer production than this one. Every singer fully inhabits his or her role, and sings wonderfully. Arlene Saunders and Edith Mathis are brilliant as the music teacher and the 14-year-old student, and Dr. Stone’s creator does the best he can with his unsympathetic part. The Globolinks are colorful and weird video creations, not too scary for the little ones, but effective aliens. Every aspect of the television production is well thought out and well photographed. There is no attempt to re-create the feeling of a staged performance—this is really an operatic film. The monaural broadcast sound is well balanced, and the English titles (the production is sung in German) are excellent. Matthias Kuntzsch conducts with flair and energy, balances are fine, and the orchestra plays very well. The notes, well translated into English, are helpful and stimulating. If you are a committed fan of Menotti’s music, it is probably worth obtaining this, because it is not likely to be bettered..."
-- Henry Fogel, FANFARE

Emily – Edith Mathis
Madame Euterpova – Arlene Saunders
Dr. Stone – Raymond Wolansky
Tony – William Workman
Timothy – Kurt Marschner
Miss Newkirk – Ursula Boese
Mr. Lavander-Gas – Franz Grundheber
Dr. Turtlespit – Noël Mangin
Hamburg State Opera Ballet
Gian Carlo Menotti, director
Joachim Hess, TV adaptation

Krzysztof Penderecki: Die Teufel von Loudun (The Devils of Loudun) (1969)

"...These performers were thoroughly committed to the drama. A standout on camera is the creepy doctor of Heinz Blankenburg—Fritz Lang would have loved him!—and it is good to see another singer at the beginning of an international career, bass-baritone Hans Sotin... The opera orchestra attacks the music with confidence; the mono sound allows everything to be heard. This DVD also comes with detailed notes and English subtitles... [I]t is great to see something from an era when a mainstream art form incorporated an element of bold experiment. Also, there is no denying the star quality of Tatiana Troyanos. Recommended to the adventurous, the libidinous and/or the devout."
-- Phillip Scott, FANFARE

Jeanne - Tatiana Troyanos
Urbain Grandier - Andrzej Hiolski
Father Barré - Bernhard Ladysz
Father Rangier - Hans Sotin
Jean d'Armagnac - Karl-Heinz Gerdesmann
Guilleaume de Cerisay - Rolf Mamero
Adam - Kurt Marschner
Mannoury - Heinz Blankenburg
Baron de Laubardement - Helmut Melchert
Prince Henri de Condé - William Workman
Asmodeus - Arnold van Mill
Joachim Hess, TV director

Picture format: NTSC 4:3 Colour
Sound format: PCM Mono
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu languages: English, German, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Running time: 22 hours
No. of DVDs: 11 (10x DVD9 + 1x DVD5)

Full Review 3733870.zzhf_CULT_OPERA.html

CULT OPERA OF THE 1970s Various performers; Hamburg St Op; Hamburg P St O ARTHAUS 101261, mono (11 DVDs: 22:00:00)

BEETHOVEN Fidelio. BERG Wozzeck. LORTZING Zar und Zimmermann. MENOTTI Help, Help, the Globolinks! MOZART Le nozze di Figaro. Die Zauberflöte. OFFENBACH Orphée aux enfers. PENDERECKI The Devils of Loudon. WAGNER Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. WEBER Der Freischütz

I bought this set because it contained several favorite operas plus some lesser-known ones that intrigued me—and because it was dirt cheap. The odd title and the packaging in bright primary colors suggested that it was a cheesy production; I never dreamed that so many of the performances would be so fine. It was several years before I got around to watching them all—thus this late Classical Hall of Fame nomination. These are productions from the Rolf Liebermann era at the Hamburg State Opera. Recorded from 1967 to 1971, they are imaginative film adaptations of staged performances, some no longer on stage (Wozzeck was filmed outdoors as well as in). Hamburg was then an ensemble company; many of the singers perform in multiple operas, sometimes as leads, sometimes in what we think of as comprimario roles: tenor Hans Marschner sings Orpheus but also the First Prisoner. Basses Franz Grundheber and Hans Sotin appear in six operas each; sopranos Edith Mathis and Arlene Saunders, mezzo Elisabeth Steiner, and Marschner in four; tenor Richard Cassilly in three. A young Tatiana Troyanos, then a member of the company, is sensational in the juicy role of Jeanne, the much-afflicted Prioress of The Devils of Loudon. Guest stars in signature roles abound—Nicolai Gedda as Tamino, Cristina Deutekom as the Queen of the Night, Gottlob Frick as Kaspar, Giorgio Tozzi as Hans Sachs (a role he sang 11 times at the Met)—and in minor roles: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is the Speaker in Die Zauberflöte. Clinging to long-standing tradition, Figaro and Orphée are sung in German, as are all these performances (Help, Help, the Globolinks! was written for this company).

These mostly conservative productions are imaginative and colorful, the singing is on a high level, the acting good if not always up to contemporary operatic standards, the conducting variable. The audio is bright and clear despite being monaural, and the video is exceptional for its era, fine even when viewed on a large HD screen, the colors rich and bright. The booklets with each DVD are unusually full (as many as 40 pages) and interesting, even when compared to operas on CD. Typical are complete cast and credits, individual scene listing with timings, an essay on the work, detailed synopsis, and artist bios, often in German and French as well as English. Subtitles are available in English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish.

All of these DVDs appeared singly, and most were reviewed in Fanfare. Here are brief but representative nuggets from other Fanfarers. Barry Brenesal in 32:4: “a good, solid Fidelio with some standout performances.” James A. Altena, in a 37:1 review of another Wozzeck DVD: “the easy first choice is the 1970 Hamburg State Opera production on Arthaus.” Christopher Williams in 31:1 “watched [Zar und Zimmermann] ... with increasing joy and satisfaction.” Henry Fogel in 31:1: “difficult to imagine a finer production” of Globolinks!—although he didn’t like the opera. Figaro (Brenesal in 30:6): “distinct pleasure.” Die Zauberflote (Lynn René Bayley in 36:5): “You will never hear a better-sung performance in your life.” In 30:5, Brenesal called this Orpheus “mediocre beer.” (You can’t win ’em all.) In his Want List 2007 (31: 2), Raymond Tuttle nailed The Devils of Loudon as “a black, brutal work” that “will make most viewers queasy, but ... needs to be seen.” In 31:1, Phillip Scott recommended this performance to “the adventurous, the libidinous, and/or the devout.” In 30:6, Andrew Quint found this Die Meistersinger “an absolute delight.” In a review of this complete set on pages 345–47 of 32:4, Bayley found Tozzi to be “a splendid, genial Sachs” and had high praise for this Der Freischütz: “no Kaspar since [Frick] has come close to his truly menacing blackness of tone and outstanding vocal acting”; although displeased with the conducting of Leopold Ludwig.

I concur with most of those opinions, but I rather like The Globolinks! Yes, it’s a corny children’s one-acter, but it is based on such a lovely premise: only music can save us from the barbarians. Menotti has fun with everything from fugues to electronic music, and the Globolinks’s costumes are wondrously imaginative. Offenbach’s Orpheus has been trashed, with an odd German prurience that recalls Mel Brooks’s Springtime for Hitler, but the delectable Elisabeth Steiner (Eurydice) is a joy to see as well as hear. Perhaps because it was the earliest of these films, this well-sung Figaro seems stilted; perhaps it’s the German: “Nun vergiss leises Flehn” won’t go anymore for “Non più andrai.” Horst Stein leads a cautious Zauberflöte, beautifully sung by its starry cast (Mathis, Deutekom, Gedda, Sotin); William Workman is a most amusing Papageno. The Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz is not as exciting as it can be, but the often problematic finale is superb. Fidelio is marvelous, despite Anja Silja’s Leonore light; Cassilly is the next best thing to Vickers, young Theo Adam is a frightening Pizarro, and Lucia Popp is the perfect Marzelline. The Hamburg orchestra plays more incisively for Charles Mackerras (Zar und Zimmermann), Bruno Maderna (Wozzeck), and Hans Schmidt-Isserestedt (Figaro) than it does under Ludwig—yet the latter’s Meistersinger typifies this set: there are nits one could pick (including a few cuts), but its warm humanity conquers all. This set earns its place in our Classical Hall of Fame.

FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
1. Le nozze di Figaro, K 492 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer: Tom Krause (Baritone), Arlene Saunders (Soprano), Elisabeth Steiner (Mezzo Soprano), Kurt Marschner (Tenor), Heinz Horst Blankenburg (Baritone), Edith Mathis (Soprano), Maria von Ilosvay (Alto)
Period: Classical
Written: 1786 ; Vienna, Austria
2. Die Zauberflöte, K 620 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer: Carol Malone (Soprano), William Workman (Baritone), Cristina Deutekom (Soprano), Franz Grundheber (Baritone), Hans Sotin (Bass), Kurt Moll (Bass), Nicolai Gedda (Tenor), Edith Mathis (Soprano), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Baritone)
Conductor: Horst Stein
Period: Classical
Written: 1791 ; Vienna, Austria
3. Fidelio, Op. 72 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer: Lucia Popp (Soprano), Erwin Wohlfahrt (Tenor), Ernst Wiemann (Bass), Hans Sotin (Bass), Richard Cassilly (Tenor), Anja Silja (Soprano), Theo Adam (Bass)
Conductor: Leopold Ludwig
Period: Classical
Written: 1804/1814 ; Vienna, Austria
4. Der Freischütz, J 277 by Carl Maria von Weber
Performer: Arlene Saunders (Soprano), Franz Grundheber (Baritone), Toni Blankenheim (Baritone), Tom Krause (Baritone), Hans Sotin (Bass), Ernst Kozub (Tenor), Gottlob Frick (Bass), Edith Mathis (Soprano)
Conductor: Leopold Ludwig
Period: Romantic
Written: 1817-1821 ; Dresden, Germany
5. Zar und Zimmermann by Albert Lortzing
Performer: Raymond Wolansky (Baritone), Lucia Popp (Soprano), Franz Grundheber (Baritone), Ursula Boese (Mezzo Soprano), Peter Haage (Tenor), Hans Sotin (Bass), Horst Wilhelm (Tenor), Herbert Fliether (Bass), Noël Mangin (Bass)
Period: Romantic
Written: 1837 ; Germany
6. Orphée aux enfers by Jacques Offenbach
Performer: Inge Meysel (Voice), Franz Grundheber (Baritone), Elisabeth Steiner (Mezzo Soprano), Kurt Marschner (Tenor), Theo Lingen (Voice), Liselotte Pulver (Voice)
Conductor: Marek Janowski
Orchestra/Ensemble: Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1858/1874 ; Paris, France
7. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner
Performer: Arlene Saunders (Soprano), Hans-Otto Kloose (Baritone), Ursula Boese (Mezzo Soprano), Ernst Wiemann (Bass), Giorgio Tozzi (Bass), Gerhard Unger (Tenor), Richard Cassilly (Tenor), Toni Blankenheim (Baritone)
Conductor: Leopold Ludwig
Period: Romantic
Written: 1862-1867 ; Germany
8. Wozzeck, Op. 7 by Alban Berg
Performer: Peter Haage (Tenor), Hans Sotin (Bass), Kurt Moll (Bass), Kurt Marschner (Tenor), Gerhard Unger (Tenor), Richard Cassilly (Tenor), Elisabeth Steiner (Mezzo Soprano), Franz Grundheber (Baritone), Toni Blankenheim (Baritone), Sena Jurinac (Soprano)
Conductor: Bruno Maderna
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1917-1922 ; Austria
9. Help, Help, the Globolinks! by Gian Carlo Menotti
Performer: Kurt Marschner (Tenor), Ursula Boese (Mezzo Soprano), Raymond Wolansky (Baritone), William Workman (Baritone), Arlene Saunders (Soprano), Franz Grundheber (Baritone), Edith Mathis (Soprano), Noël Mangin (Bass)
Conductor: Matthias Kuntzsch
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1971 ; USA
10. The Devils of Loudun by Krzysztof Penderecki
Performer: Hans Sotin (Bass), Bernard Ladysz (Bass), Tatiana Troyanos (Mezzo Soprano), Andrzej Hiolski (Baritone), Karl-Heinz Gerdesmann (Voice)
Conductor: Marek Janowski
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1968 ;
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