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Robert Schumann - Genoveva (Opernhaus Zurich)

2.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Juliane Banse, Shawn Mathey, Martin Gantner, and Cornelia Kallisch star in this Zurich Opera production of the Schumann opera conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

Review

Now in his 80s, conductor Harnoncourt is in the now-or-never stage of his recording career and championing large but little-known works by Schumann, whom he believes would have become a major dramatist had he not been stymied by madness and early death. Genoveva gives credence to that: Despite its stupid libretto, the opera has nothing but skillfully shaped scenes, convincing if superficial characterizations, and great musical invention, particularly in the scoring. And whatever one thinks of the static Zurich Opera production with plainly garbed singers in a bare white room (released on Blu-ray Jan. 26), the cast gives well-examined portrayals.

You don't have to know that the Faust scenes were written over many years to conclude that it's an artistic garage sale. Particularly frustrating are portions written shortly before the composer's death; they feel sketchy and detached from their dramatic needs. Yet Faust unquestionably has some of Schumann's most compelling non-symphonic music, particularly in the soliloquys, at which this smart cast excels. Though this recording has some starry competition, baritone Gerhaher's Faust is a trump card. -- David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 10, 2010


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Juliane Banse, Shawn Mathey, Alfred Muff, Martin Gantner, Cornelia Kallisch
  • Directors: Martin Kusej
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Arthaus
  • DVD Release Date: October 28, 2008
  • Run Time: 146 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001F1YBM6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #170,860 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I have seen this production live at the Zurich opera house february 2008.

Musically, people tend to think of Schumann as the composer of small miniatures. As a result, he is not easily associated with larger orchestral works such as Szenen aus Goethe`s Faust and the genre of opera. These works are therefore unfortunately hardly ever performed. When I heard that Mr. Harnoncourt wanted to do a scenic production of this opera and that it has been a 15-year old wish of his to do so I did not hesitate and drove the 600+ miles to Zurich to see this production twice.
Harnoncourt is a strong advocate of Schumann`s music and has been for a number of years. An older ecording of Genoveva with him is available on cd. This performance is completely different, though. Contrasts are much sharper, musical lines longer, tension more evident. What really stands out is the richness of the orchestral sound. The performance makes it evident that Scumann is a great composer, not only of miniatures but also, perhaps especially, of great vocal works. Every detail is audible in the orcestra as well as the chorus, singers stand out when the score calls for it and blend when this is indicated. What beautifull music! Why is this piece never ever performed?! And how is it possible that an almost 80 year old Harnoncourt still treads new ground in choice as well as performance? It is incredible how he takes you by the scruff of the neck, as it were, and forces you to see what a complete musical genius Schumann really is..
The music as well as the story has a sort of `holiness`to it that reminds me of the great oratoria sich as Haydn`s Creation, for example. In this respect Schumann breaks new ground with this opera.
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Format: DVD
This DVD was a tremendous disappointment.

I knew that Harnoncourt has been an advocate for "Genoveva" for years, and I was really looking forward to seeing and hearing the opera. I found the music attractive, even moving. The plot stretched credibility, but no more so than "Norma" or "Il Trovatore," both of which I have seen repeatedly and love.

I found the performance superior musically, but I suspect that Harnoncourt's tempi, which have generally slowed in the past few years, were too slow to present the opera at its best.

The staging, however, was a major disappointment. It was Eurotrash at its very worst. Medieval knights and peasants were garbed in Edwardian(?)dress. Most of the performance took place in a white box with only a chair, a sink, and a mirror. All the major characters stood on the chair at one time or other, and most of them hid behind it from time to time. They also stood on the sink, and Genoveva climbed into and out of it several times while the libretto said that she was being forced by peasant captors to struggle up hill. Characters who left the scene, according to the libretto, often simply remained in the box and looked bored. And then there was the chorus throwing fish at a nude Genoveva--whatever that meant.

I found the staging almost unwatchable, and had great difficulty sitting through the entire opera. I certainly was not going to sit through it again, and immediately sold it back to the store from which it was purchased. If you're curious about "Genoveva" rent or borrow the DVD, but don't buy it.
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Format: DVD
After watching this fantastic production of "Genoveva" one wishes Schumann would have lived to create more operas. It is a masterpiece ahead of its time, achieving the kind of dramatic and musical unity found in Wagner, yet given a more pensive and subtle treatment than on Wagner's grand scale. I loved the concept of taking the medieval tale into Schumann's own time--a brilliant move on the part of the director. In my opinion, the minimal set only served to heighten the drama aided by some very skilled and courageous performers. I have rarely been so captivated by an opera; that is a testament not only to the genius of Robert Schumann, but to Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the director, and the brilliant cast of singers.
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I know we viewers are in trouble when the director indicates he doesn't like music by staging the overture. I agree with all those who find the staging perfectly ridiculous. There are many incongruous oddities such as why the servants and Margaretha have dirty faces. Surely one would want cleaner servants. Is this to convey that they are evil? (Golo is grimy at one point.) There are other absurdities too numerous to mention and the crowds move around aimlessly like zombies. One would have hoped that in the centennial of Schumann's birth someone would honor him by reviving this opera as he intended it to be seen. Musically the conductor and singers do a fine job. However one needs to cut off the picture and just listen. Directors who stage operas in this way do so because they are ignorant, untalented, and egotistical. What I can't understand is why opera companies hire them.
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I agree with the reviewer who called it EUROTRASH. Absolulely true. I can't add anything to what was written about this production. What a shame that such productions are staged. I have a list of names of stage directors I avoid in any DVD that comes out. I won't go to see their productions in the opera house either. Some day I would like to see a production of a classical themed opera (such as Orpheus and Euridice) that actually had appropriate sets and costumes representative of the time period of the story. Avoid this DVD at all costs. I bought it and regret the purchase.
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