Expressionistic/serialist/experimental music I more appreciate than love, and people may not find it appealing to them first time. Whether you like this/these style(s) or not, the importance expressionism, serialism and experimentalism have in music is vast. Of the three big composers of the style, Schoenberg is probably the most important seeing as he introduced it but because of Wozzeck and Lulu my personal favourite is Berg. Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Die Soldaten is an example of serialist opera, and a great one at that. The story is quite a powerful one with a Wozzeck influence- though it is also a very difficult opera to stage- and the music-while not everybody's cup of tea, particularly for those more familiar with the more melodious kind of music(mostly the music in Die Soldaten is anything but, somewhat mechanical in the prelude even in the deliberate sense of course)- with the use of sprechgesang(speech-singing, very common in expressionist/serialist music), electronics, dissonant harmonies with a bit of jazz set-up is very clever. This Stuttgart production couldn't be a more ideal introduction to it, and even when dated nearly 25 years so it still holds interest and relevance now. The mix of 18th century period costuming, dark backgrounds and modern atmosphere and directions make for an intriguing if slightly weird concept and is done very strikingly. The staging from Harry Kupfer is just as clever as the music and the production values, the use of scenes running in parallels came across very well, while the drama packs a powerful and poignant punch. The big orchestra play securely and with a good technical command, and aided by the clear, authoritative conducting by Bernhard Kontarsky. The performances perfectly compliment the music and drama, Nancy stands out as a compellingly acted and beautifully sung/spoken Marie. The baritone and bass performing Marie's two suiters Stolzius and Desportes match her in quality and make a good contrast to one another. The technical values of the DVD are fine. All in all, highly recommended, a powerful opera and a powerful production. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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