Mozart and sheep puppets

When the Salzburg Festival decided to do all 22 Mozart operas for the 25th anniversary in 2006 there must have been a fair amount of thought put into to what to do about the lesser works. I have to say that the solution they came up with for Bastien und Bastienne, written when Mozart was twelve, and Der Schauspieldirektor is most ingenious. The director, Thomas Reichert, came up with the ingenious idea of combining the two singspiels and performing them with puppets in the Salzburger Marionettentheater. The work breaks into three parts; a largely spoken prologue based on Der Schauspieldirektor where Frank (Alfred Kleinheinz) and Buff (Radu Cojocariu) audition the puppets for the roles in Bastien und Bastienne. The puppetry in this section is quite wonderful. The decision is made to split cast Bastienne which sets up the soprano rivalry for the final part of extracts from Der Schauspieldirektor. In between we get the performance of Bastien und Bastienne with Cojocariu singing the magician Colas on stage with the puppets while Bernhard Berchtold, Evmorfia Metaxaki and Aleksandra Zamojska sing from the pit. It’s charming complete with puppet sheep. The finale well exploits the difference in voice between the fuller, more mature Zamojska and the brilliant coloratura of Metaxaki. It’s lots of fun with some good gags and excellent singing from the young cast, especially Cojocariu. The orchestra is the Junge Philharmonie Salzburg conducted by Elisabeth Fuchs.

The video direction is by Stefan Aglassinger. He does a good job of producing a coherent video which is not easy because the action takes place on stage, in the pit and around the auditorium. It was filmed in HD and the picture is an excellent 16:9. Sound options are PCM stereo and DTS 5.1. There are English, French, German and Spanish subtitles. The disc includes a reasonably interesting “Making of” documentary.

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