Kasper Holten shows his customary inventiveness in his production of Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt, recorded at Finnish National Opera in 2010. He places the whole opera inside Paul’s “Marie museum” with a chaotic, higgledy, piggledy model of the the city of Brugge as a back wall. He emphasises the dream elements of acts 2 and 3 through devices such as having the troupe of players and their boat emerge through Paul’s bed or assorted ecclesiastics popping up randomly in the “city model”. He also inserts a non-speaking Marie who is present throughout the piece, often to very interesting effect.
Musically this is really strong. Klaus Florian Vogt is just about perfect as Paul. He sings beautifully without the slightest hint of strain in this far from easy part. Camilla Nylund is also impressive. She manages to create two vocal personae; a robust one for her rather slutty, sometimes fierce, Marietta and an ethereally beautiful one for the voice of Marie. Markus Eiche also makes the most of his few moments in the sun as Frank/Fritz (military uniform experts can have fun decoding Frank’s rather bizarre attire). Mikko Franck conducts an exciting, sometimes akmost too exciting, reading of the score with energetic and enthusiastic support from the FNO orchestra. It must have been quite something to hear live.
Despite being recorded in 2010 there is no Blu-ray of this recording. The DVD is pretty decent though the complex set and dense orchestral sound (the STS is clearer than the stereo) would have benefited from just a little more definition. Hasnnu Kamppila’s video direction is pleasantly unobtrusive. The only extras is a cast gallery and the booklet has a short essay and synopsis but no track listings. Subtitle options are English, French, German, Japanese and Korean. There are no Finnish subtitles but the credits are in Finnish so one can have a few minutes fun trying to figure out the Finnish for “make up artist” or “assistant cameraman”.