It’s always worth checking in to see what’s new in our music and video streaming services; the treasures just keep rolling in!
The fact that Franz Schubert tried his hand at opera on a number of occasions without much success has generally been blamed on the quality of the libretti he worked with, rather than the quality of the music he produced. When you listen to an opera like Fierrabras, chock full of utterly ravishing and dramatic music, it seems almost profligate for it to have been so poorly treated over the years; the fault is generally blamed on its weak libretto, but when has that ever been a bar to an opera getting performed? Fortunately it has been undergoing something of a renaissance recently, and this production from the 2014 Salzburg Festival gives it a splendidly traditional and monumental outing, with a fine cast who do full justice to both the music and the startlingly dramatic melodramas (accompanied spoken word) that spring up throughout the work. Well worth a revival.
Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu is currently making her first visit to Australia, which is a good enough reason to feature this lovely 2001 recital from Covent Garden. The programme cherry-picks through some of her most famous and regular roles from the Italian and French repertoire, but for me the real standout here is her utterly gorgeous rendition of Lascia ch’io pianga from Handel’s Rinaldo; one of those “time standing still” moments.
The Reichsorchester- The Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich: a film by Enrique Sanchez-Lansch(Music Online, Classical Music in Video)
Uncomfortable history and uncomfortable viewing, including Beethoven’s Choral Symphony performed for Hitler’s birthday in front of an audience of the Nazi elite in a swastika-bedecked hall. What happens when an artist, or group of artists as here, find themselves hijacked by a truly monstrous political machine? The Nazi Party was fully aware of the propaganda opportunities inherent in co-opting one of the world’s greatest orchestras and its chief conductor, Wilhelm Furtwangler, for the advancement of its own social and political agenda. This chilling documentary explores what that meant for the orchestra, how its members responded to the blandishments and threats of their new masters, what happened to its Jewish members, and how some of the participants came to view their willing and unwilling collaboration in the post-war years. The approach of the director is refreshingly objective, leaving the musicians to speak for themselves and we the viewers to form our own judgements on the paths they chose to follow. (Also available via the Naxos Video Library)
These two lovely productions are indicative of the treasures to be found in the Broadway Theatre Archive, available as part of the Naxos Video Library. Some of the productions were filmed for television whilst others were originally produced for the theatre and subsequently adapted for film, but they are all fascinating documents from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. This made-for-television film of The Glass Menagerie is a truly lovely thing, enshrining one of Katharine Hepburn’s most moving and brittle performances, ably supported by a young Sam Waterston and a fine ensemble cast in one of Tennessee Williams’ most deeply personal plays. The Shakespeare is a delight, transferring the action to turn-of-the-century America complete with brass bands, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and a production design that almost makes one wonder how it could be produced any other way! The performances are marvellously fresh as well.
You can enjoy all of these films and many more here at the State Library, or from the comfort of your own home if you’re one of our Victorian registered members.
A performance which might have brought a smile to Beethoven himself; that’s much better!