It’s an odd quirk of opera broadcasting that relatively few video recordings of operas get made in North America and those that do are almost all recorded at the Met. This means that works that are standard rep on the west side of the pond but rarer in Europe may be very slow to get a video release, if they get one at all. Now Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah is just such a work. It’s the second most performed US opera after Porgy and Bess but has only just appeared on video for the first time.
In 1970 Rolf Liebermann took the assembled forces of the Hamburg State Opera down to a castle in South Germany and made a film of Berg’s Wozzeck. The production is pretty literal. It’s set in Austria in the late 19th century and everything plays out very literally per the libretto but it’s far from being a routine or dull reading. A combination of brilliant conducting, slightly over the top acting, pointing up the Expressionist elements in the music and really good cinematography make this a very tense, creepy and claustrophobic experience. It’s simultaneously rather repellent and hard to watch and deeply engaging. Continue reading →