Hans Werner Henze is not one of my favourite composers, and his music is an acquired taste (a taste that many people have found difficult to acquire).
'L'Upupa Und Der Triumph Der Sohnesliebe' is his swansong, and what a swansong to go out on. And this production couldn't be a more ideal introduction to it, almost everything about it is spot on.
Complaints are very few, but for me Matthias Goerne is a bit of a blank as an actor and while there is some lovely lyricism to his singing there is the sense that the role is too low for him. Luckily, the exceptional performances of John Mark Ainsley, who sings with intensity and a wide range of expression, a delightful Laura Aiken and an ardent Alfred Muff more than compensate.
As do the rest of the musical values. There is some powerful and nuanced playing from the orchestra, Henze's music is some of his most beautiful but also very complex and the orchestra do it justice. The conducting is according and alert to nuance and dramatic intensity that allows the music to breathe but keeps the drama alive.
Technically, it fares just fine on DVD. Some occasional balance issues and some of the monologues would have fared better with less of the cutting back and forth, but it is very nicely filmed and beautifully recorded on the whole.
Visually and in terms of staging, this production of 'L'Upupa Und Der Triumph Der Sohnesliebe' is excellent. The production values are exotic and rich in atmosphere, while the stage direction is intelligent and true to the beauty and complexity of the opera with many imaginative moments that never fall into irrelevance and distaste.
In conclusion, a fine swansong and a knockout of a production with a couple of foibles. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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