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Gloriously sung but, as a DVD, not value for money
on 29 April 2001
With an all star cast this is a justly famous version, dating from 1994 at the Met, NY. Dame Kiri's voice is glorious and full of feeling, belying critics who suggest she emphasises beauty of tone above expression. It's a role that excellently suits her noli-me-tangere stage persona. She is well matched in voice, presence and acting by the bluff Mandryka of Wolfgang Brendel. The Zdenko/Zdenka & Matteo plot is always difficult to carry off: how far do you press the homosexual subtext? In this production not at all, but Marie McLaughlin is excellent in the tricky role of Zdenka/Zdenko; David Kuebler matches her (although his eye-popping is too stagey for the closeups he's granted). Adelaide and Graf Waldner are sung by no less than Helga Dernesch and Donald McIntyre, and the brief but always striking part of the Fiakermilli is brilliantly done by Natalie Dessay. Christian Thielemann and the Met Orchestra produce attractive and clearly articulated sounds without producing breath-taking beauty. The reason this only gets 3 stars when it really is a very good production is its comparatively poor production as a DVD - despite its high price even by DVD standards. It's more or less a straight transfer from the video version. It has, it's true, the important additon of choice of subtitles in several languages (inclusing Chinese), but image quality is not what we expect from DVD these days and there are no extras such as we have come to consider essential in DVDs of feature films - no interviews, no background documentary (however small), no clips from rehearsals, no extracts from earlier productions. Even the booklet is basically a castlist with synopses in English, German and French and a couple of photos from the production - absurd duplication since we can see the images again and again on our screens and use the subtitle option. Why not some interesting essays to add to the value? Opera still has a LONG way to go on DVD and this is by no means a cutting edge.