As the strains of Schreker's sumptuous prelude crept in, I was already in 5-star mood. This is a beautiful work from 1918, of which I've already had the Decca CD set for some ten years, (same orchestra as the DVD, under conductor Lothar Zagrosek), along with some other Schreker operas, and as is happening more and more at present one is so grateful for the 'goodies' that are appearing on DVD.
By the end of the 12 minute prelude I was down to 4 stars. Alviano, the main protagonist of this fascinating opera, is alone on stage for the 12 minutes, making himself up and wearing woman's clothes, (close-up, wide shot, close-up, wide shot....), but at least the music didn't drag! (Nagano, as on his recent 'Le Coq d'Or' DVD, on terrific form). Comparing timings for several identical sections on the CD and DVD, Nagano is quite 'spacious', but comparing the total timing, I found that the Decca CD set has 25 minutes more music, - (The Act I Prelude for example: Nagano 12 minutes, Zagrosek 10), so the actual cuts may total 30 minutes or more, given the latter's generally faster speeds. Also the complete 'pantomime' section in Act III is cut....come on Salzburg, you can afford it!
Quite a bit of 'sub-plot' is missing, and in the main part of Act II when Carlotta is supposedly painting the 'hideous humpback' Alviano, which is what causes her to fall in love with him, there is nary an easel in sight, - instead she is slowly removing all the feminine items of apparel from him until he is left wearing a body stocking, - (any of her sung references to how Alviano should be posing also subject to cuts).
There's no space here to recount the plot, but the same set serves all three acts, quite adequately for the first two, but for Act III which takes place on Alviano's island, in a grotto after an orgy, well, 'here we are again!' The orgy is over, but I think I'll look for my orgies elsewhere, thanks. (Whoever is the main Salzburg body-stocking retailer has probably taken a very comfortable early retirement!)
I'm a great admirer of Lehnhoff's Janacek DVDs from Glyndebourne, but although this isn't one of those 'Konzept' productions that blindly ignores the music, it's symptomatic that when Alviano, looking more and more like Elton John in his baggy, shiny white, modern suit, kills his rival, it's with a revolver. And for an opera in part about the 'artist's place in society', the choral contributions from the Genoese crowd have been reduced to a minimum.
Wonderful music, beautifully played, crisp 16:9 pictures, good singing from most if not all the cast, - by all means try it, - but listen to the Decca CD set (from their 'Entartete Musik' series), and let your imagination do the rest.