Excellent Opera Australia production of Strauss's masterpiece
Maybe not the best DVD production of my favourite Strauss opera, there's more a preference to the 1962, 1985 and 1994 ones. But it is still extremely good, excellent even. There is not much actually that's wrong with it, the sound from personal opinion did lack resonance in places and Henry Choo is a little strained as the Italian singer and his acting is reliant on stock gestures. The production looks very elegant from beginning to end with colourful and beautifully tailored costumes and the décor is equally sumptuous. The photography often gives the production a cinematic touch, and the stage direction doesn't take things too seriously, the drama is very well paced and affecting but the comedy really does sparkle as well. The presentation of the Silver Rose is just adorable it's guaranteed to make the heart melt and the final scene is potentially static but is actually very poignant here. Musically that's where the production is particularly great. The luscious orchestration and waltzes are brought to life vividly by the orchestra's shimmering tone, especially in the strings. Andrew Litten's conducting is masterly, giving a real ability to allow the music to speak but the energy and nuances are equally well-judged. Of the performances, Cheryl Barker's Marschallin is the standout, she's outstanding. It is a dignified and deeply felt interpretation and she sings with poise and vocal beauty throughout with rarely a false note. Catherine Carby is an appropriately youthful and appealingly impetuous Oktavian, her tone mostly warm although it takes a little time to open up. Emma Pearson is very charming as Sophie, with a voice that is pure throughout the range, even the high notes which are treacherous in this role. Manfred Hemm manages to bring humanity and great comic timing to Baron Ochs, a boorish and a potentially annoying one. His voice is also a very rich one especially at the bottom. Warwick Fyfe is a firm Faninal and Jacqueline Darke sparkles as Annina, both in excellent voice, and while not quite as lively an actor Andrew Brunsdon supports them ably. Overall, an excellent and almost perfect production. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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