Not as good as the 1972 performance, but worth seeing for Rydl
Die Schweigsame Frau is a very underrated Strauss. Is it one of his best operas? Not for me, my personal favourite has always been Der Rosenkavalier. But is it worth hearing? Absolutely as with all Strauss. It has a score that is both lively and melancholic, and the story does entertain, almost like a German Pasquale. As I said in the 1972 performance with Kurt Moll and Reri Grist, Die Schweigsame Frau is perhaps not performed often because it is almost impossible to cast, especially with the role of Sir Morosus.
This production was good. I do prefer the 1972 performance, but this is worth seeing for introducing yourself to the opera or if you like Kurt Rydl, who apart from Georg Zeppenfeld and possibly Hans Peter Kraemer is one of few principals I was familiar with prior to watching. It did have some things I didn't like so much, the sets for example were a little too grey and sparse especially in the first act. Ofelia Sala's dress in the last act while striking in colour didn't suit her figure at all. And I didn't get the point of having the idea of having Markus Butter as the Barber on stage and Hans Peter Kraemer singing for him. The role is beautifully sung and generally lively dramatically, though there was some very flamboyant arm gestures that got on my nerves after a while.
On the other hand, I generally did like the costumes and thought they were true to period. Sir Morosus' was especially opulent. The picture quality, video directing and sound are fine. The staging handles the comedic and dramatic aspects very well without resorting too much to gimmicks and mawkish sentimentality.
Musically, it is all very good. The orchestral playing play stylishly for the more lively parts of Strauss' score and give a hauntingly beautiful quality to the melancholic parts. The actual playing is richly lush throughout, with good textural balances. Peter Schneider's conducting is solid if lacking Wolfgang Sawallisch's nuances. It at least doesn't sound too broad or plodding.
The singing is excellent on the whole. As I said the Barber did sing well, though I would have preferred it if there was one person doing the singing and acting on stage. Georg Zeppenfeld is an authoritative Vanuzzi, and Christa Mayer's Hausschafterin is very well sung. Ofelia Sala's voice is not as even as Reri Grist, but her Aminta is charming and her singing is strong, she hits the notes and the tone is bright. Oliver Ringelhahn sings with an unstrained sound and is dashing to look at at his best in the wonderful Act 2 duet. The star of the show is the Sir Morosus of Kurt Rydl. The role requires a true bass and to show a flair for comedy and tragedy. Apart from some wobbly moments on the top, Rydl is a true bass(one of few there is now, excepting Matti Salminen but as much as I love him I personally don't see him ideally suited for this role) with most of the voice warm and sonorous. And his acting is really excellent, he is a great comic and the more melancholic moments are suitably poignant.
All in all, a good performance with an outstanding Rydl and a good overall cast. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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