I've already reviewed a different DVD of the same opera at:
and rather than repeat any of my remarks on the background of the opera, I will refer you to that review.
I was quite favorable about that DVD but here we have a version with a more high-powered and, let's face it, better cast and conductor from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Mr. Levine has spread himself rather thin in recent years and, from what I've read, doesn't have the physical stamina and mobility he once did. And, true, many of his performances have been rather routine along the way as might be expected from someone who does so much performing. But here, doing a work he really loves, he shows how he can excel when in the proper mood.
In contrast to the somewhat gimmicky and updated other version, this is a completely traditional 17th-century production with costumes appropriate to that period. (The opera was originally the entertainment at the end of a German version of Moliere's "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme".) The cast, which includes Barbara Bonney and Dawn Upshaw in minor roles, has the imposing Jessye Norman in the title role and she does it to a turn as does the young Kathleen Battle as the coquette Zerbinetta. But the first act (Prologue) really belongs to the late Tatiana Troyanos as the put-upon Composer. (Though this part is always played by a woman, the character is clearly a stand-in for Richard Strauss himself.) Even though I suggested, in the other review, that I thought the music of the Prologue was routine, it doesn't come across that way at all here and perhaps the performance on the later DVD was to blame.
The second act (The Opera), shows both Norman and Battle as authoritative interpreters of their roles and the 60 years old James King (Tenor/Bacchus,) though hardly the "young god" of the opera remaining in good voice even if somewhat past his peak.
I can't say that this is the best of all the released versions as there are several others with equally fine casts which I haven't seen.
The "extras" on this DVD largely consist of rehearsal with Levine, mostly with Norman and Battle.
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