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Hindemith - Cardillac

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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(Aug 14, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

1985 Bavarian State Opera production of Hindemith's 1926 opera, based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's celebrated tale of an incomparable but obsessive goldsmith and a rash of mysterious murders in the Paris of Louis XIV. The work, staged by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, tells the story of the goldsmith Cardillac who is unable to part with his creations and recovers the objects he has sold by murdering the purchasers. The stellar cast is led by bass singer Donald McIntyre.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Donald McIntyre, Robert Schunk, Maria de Francesca-Cavazza, Hans Gunter Nocker
  • Directors: Wolfgang Sawallisch, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
  • Format: Classical, NTSC, DTS Surround Sound, Digital Sound, Subtitled
  • Language: German (DTS 5.1), German (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: German, English, French
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
  • DVD Release Date: August 14, 2007
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000OONQ26
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,437 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Hindemith - Cardillac" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph L. Ponessa on August 18, 2007
Format: DVD
I just finished watching this DVD, which I picked up at HMV in London a few days before the American release, and carried triumphantly home. I equivocated between the recent Paris production and this 1980's Munich production, both of which were coming out neck-and-neck. I saw that the Paris DVD is longer (well over 100 minutes) while the Munich DVD clocked in at 88 minutes. I thought that might mean the Paris was more complete, but after further reading on the back covers found that the Paris DVD has a half-hour documentary, which might account for the longer playing time. The Paris DVD was costlier, and that made sense because of the greater length, so the Munich DVD was cheaper. Finally I decided to get the Munich because of the notice that Ponnelle had directed the work as if it were a 1920's expressionist German film. I am very fond of those silent films, and I wanted to see Ponnelle directing outside of his usual, baroque manner. I am happy to report that the result is, indeed, a triumph. One really feels the Weimar ethos.
I have in the past found Hindemith's music easier to appreciate than to like. In this work, the use of choral and ensemble creates a texture that carries the drama along. Frankly, twentieth century opera frequently sounds to me like felines wailing in the night. In this work the same danger lies, but Hindemith rises above the temptation to let soloists hang on a limb, and gives them full support of orchestra and chorus. The soloists in this work have to have a Wagnerian projection to assert their rightful place, and these soloists don't have any problem doing that, but the piece is more choral than most, I would say. When the 88 minutes were over, I felt I could have handled more. Maybe I will get that Paris disc, too.
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Mr. Podessa's review covers the good points of this opera adequately. It's a new work to me; I've never heard a note of it nor looked at the score. The logical comparisons would be with Berg's Wozzeck and Lulu, or Janacek's Makropoulos Case. The Hindemith stands up to such comparison musically, perhaps less complex and bold than the others but more colored and easier to hear immediately. I also like the Doktor Caligari staging; it's hard to imagine any other would be as appropriate for this post-Freudian opera. Now, however, the weakness: the sound transfer is tinny, distant, and without nuance. Even on my very good equipment, played at a volume as loud as I could bear, I felt I was listening to a car radio. What a pity! I've knocked off one star only because I'm in a cheerful mood; another time I might have knocked off two.
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Format: DVD
This is a simple enough story about a mysterious murderer whom prizes the works of a goldsmith named Cardillac.

I had to use the subtitles at the beginning as the chorus or crowd slurred or murmured the words. The story was not quite clear. Soon the story was clear but in the effort to make this an opera the Cavalier took some long breaths to tell the story of the goldsmith and his unique jewelry. The music was adequate to the performance but there was no outstanding work that would go through your head at day or accompany any other work.

I suppose it was the twentieth century feel and the German Expressionist approach that was distraction. Then again it was my first exposure to this opera. So it is possible that without a background the production is lost. For now it was adequate.
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Format: DVD
Hindemith is famous mostly as a pedagog. His compositions are not that popular. This is a pity. I think you need a little patience to "get it".

In the eighties my wife and I got to perform in a production of Cardillac at Cinnabar Opera Theater in Petaluma California. She played the soprano lead while I played the evil Magistrate. I got the part because I was the only bass they could find who could sing the high F# in the big aria. Hindemith's writing isn't very grateful to the voice or respectfull of the standard vocal conventions.

The first time we did this opera I thought the music was pure dreck. It sounded like nothing at all to me. It seemed arbitrary and noisy. However the piece held the stage well dramatically and was popular with the Northern California artsy community.

Two years later it was mounted again and my wife and I again sang. However this time the music was wonderful and profound. The cast and orchestra was nearly the same but something somehow had clicked in my head. Suddenly I "got it". What had been just noise had suddenly become music.

A few years later my wife and I were at the SF Symphony and a major Hindemith piece was played. The audience was cool and reserved - they didn't like it very much at all. But my wife and I looked at each other in that moment of joint recognition and screamed our approval. We were the only ones, it seemed, in the hall that "got it".
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I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of what is generally considered modern avant-garde music, often I find it to be more formulaic and predictable than the traditional music it seeks to upend. For instance, how many so-called avant-garde pieces remind one of one long continuous wail, occasionally punctuated with outbursts of brass and percussion just to maintain the listener's attention? So much of contemporary music attempts to plumb the depths of despair, but in my opinion it sounds more like some well-adjusted academic's naive, overly intellectualized hypothesis of what real despair feels like, and as a result any chance for a genuinely emotional experience is blunted.

Cardillac isn't like that. This is early twentieth century fin de sicle music, full of vigor and decadence and warped beauty, dark but also thrillingly alive. Any music lover who doesn't have a problem with early Richard Strauss, or Berg, or Stravinsky, or for that matter Shostakovich or Prokofiev, in other words any of the more romantically inclined of the European groundbreakers from the first half of the last century, should find much to savor here. Hindemith was considered something of a radical in his day, but I was surprised by the accessibility of the music, the wealth of melody, how it manages to be edgy without being off-putting(a lost art these days). This music breathes!

Speaking of accessibility, I found some nods to more popular operas in the music. For instance, several of the solos(I hesitate to label them arias) display a Mozartean structure and feel(but with none of Mozart's gentility of course), and the scene that takes place inside Cardillac's workshop even contains a quote from La Traviata, a recurring motif that sounds identical to Violetta's death knell.
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