Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
More Than Acceptable For Its TimeFeb. 15 2007
J Scott Morrison
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In the previous reviewer's one-line dismissal of this DVD I have to believe that he was more interested in getting off a wisecrack than giving a considered review of the DVD. This 1968 production of Der Freischütz was filmed under the aegis of the legendary director of the Hamburg Opera, Rolf Liebermann, and was among the first operas filmed in color specifically for broadcast on TV. For this reason, it consists almost entirely of closeups and it appears that the singers -- a marvelous cast, by the way -- are lip-synching; this is not distracting but is noticeable from time to time. The sets and costumes are traditional, and for that one can be glad, considering the awful Eurotrash productions of this opera that are currently available. Freischütz is, after all, a folk opera and thus dressing the cast in peasant costumes is appropriate. The action takes place in realistic sets. The Wolf's Glen scene is appropriately spooky without being avant garde.
I couldn't be happier about the musical aspects of this production. We get a marvelous Kaspar by the beloved basso, Gottlob Frick, who was, believe it or not, sixty-two when this film was made. There may be a slight wobble now and then, but mostly his resounding bass is in fine shape; he makes Kaspar both evil and just a bit hammy. The young Edith Mathis brings her pert personality and perfectly regulated light soprano to the part of Ännchen. The American soprano Arlene Saunders is excellent as Agathe and 'Leise, leise' is beautifully done. The tenor Heinz Kozub, although a little old for the part of Max, has a good heroic tenor and his acting is actually quite good. Toni Blankenheim as Agathe's father, Cuno, is not in as good voice as I've heard him in other productions but the sound gets better by the third act and is certainly acceptable. Ottokar is taken with both musical and dramatic aptness by the fine young Finnish baritone Tom Krause. The glorious-voiced basso, the young Hans Sotin, is mesmerizing as the holy Hermit.
This is a very satisfying production and I truly cannot understand the previous reviewer's dismissal of it. He comments about the color being 'mono', but it seems to me that it is perfectly fine. It is on film, after all, not videotape, and the color is rather like that in Technicolor films. Sound is indeed in mono, but very good mono, and I have no problem with it. I am sure I'll be viewing it again and again, understanding of course that I'm seeing what amounts to a historical document, but one that is musically and dramatically valid.
66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Finally, a Fabulous Freischutz!Feb. 25 2007
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Here is another marvelous Rolf Liebermann production. It is one of a newly available stream of performances by the Hamburg State Opera, featuring the excellent American soprano, Arlene Saunders, who outdoes herself here in the role of Agathe. What makes this DVD of Der Freischutz stand out is the presence of several of the more illustrious artists of a previous era, including the delicious Edith Mathis and the great bass Gottlob Frick, making a rare - and lively - appearance as the corrupted Kaspar. Hans Sotin as the Hermit and Tom Krause's Ottokar round out a cast of superb artists in this warm and delightful Freischutz.
The filmed production is excellent. It's wonderful to finally have a beautifully sung and staged version of this important opera. Now we can clearly see what inspired Wagner to produce the greatest German music dramas of the 19th century. The chorus sings and acts admirably - everyone is spot on dramatically; costumes are good, the directing is effective, and most of all, the singing is glorious, especially (and surprisingly) Arlene Saunders, and not surprisingly, the spectacular Edith Mathis. The mournful tenor, Ernst Kozub, the delightfully demonic Frick and the rest of the cast are all moved along at a brisk and lively pace by the conductor Leopold Ludwig in this quintessentially Teutonic, mythological romance.
It's an interesting point that Ernst Kozub, whose voice is really gorgeous and powerful, is rumoured to be "Our Siegfried", the first choice for the Solti Ring. Unnamed in Culshaw's account of the monumental production of the first studio Ring in his "Ring Resounding", Kozub is described as the next great heldentenor - an impossibly difficult position to fill in the shadow of such legends as Melchior and Windgassen. Apparently he was gifted with a beautiful voice, but suffered from an inability to learn the notoriously challenging part of Siegfried, and in the end, had to be replaced by Windgassen. Here you can experience the beauty and power of Kozub's ravishing voice, and grieve that we have no other documents of his wonderful talent other than a live Zauberflote with Solti and Grummer. Mozart: Die ZauberflÃ¶te
Weber was Mozart's cousin by marriage, and one might say their relationship goes beyond the familial. Der Freischutz has many moments that sound a lot like the Magic Flute, which is a kind of musical older cousin to Freischutz. Edith Mathis, the flexible, luxurious voiced Aennchen in this production, sang the greatest version of Mozart's most beautiful and nearly impossible concert aria, "Ch'io mi scordi di te?", KV 505. This masterpiece of Mozart's vocal art can be heard on the Complete Phillips Edition of Mozart Arias, Vocal Ensembles, Canons.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Wow!--finally a Freischutz as it was meant to beJune 22 2007
Mr John Haueisen
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I had already purchased two other performances of Der Freischutz (The Marksman), by the Zurich and the Hamburg State Opera. Both were well-done musically, but the stage sets and costumes were minimalist--like something the singers might have worn if they had just gotten together for a rehearal. Stages were stark and also could have been used for almost any other opera: "one size fits all."
I feared that perhaps this opera, (with guns, shooting contests, satanic rituals, dances, and dozens of hunters running around on stage) was just too difficult to stage.
This production demonstrates that it CAN be done, and WELL-DONE! I was afraid that, as it was filmed years ago, the picture quality might be lacking, but it was excellent.
The costumes take you back to a Germany of a couple of centuries ago, and the staging and scenery are far better that I could have imagined. The Wolf's Lair is truly a dark and scary place--you almost think you're going to see blood on the cobwebs, as the libretto tells of. The bridal procession for Agathe even wends its way through the dark forest. The bullet-casting of the "magic bullets" is authentic and spooky. A wild boar and wind with cracking branches and trees falling adds to the realism of the macabre scene.
I can't say enough in praise of this production. Edith Mathis is sweet, beautiful, and fantastic in her singing and acting as Annchen. Arlene Saunders is now my favorite Agathe. Gottlob Frick is the definitive Kaspar: evil and a bit demonic. The others sing and act equally brilliantly in this production. By the way, this opera is not just about a shooting contest and a bunch of hunters. It's about a guy about to get married, who has self-doubts about whether he can be everything that his bride-to-be, and the community expect of him. He's bordering on losing his grip, and willing to "make a deal with the Devil" to win everyone's respect.
If you've ever considered seeing Der Freischutz, I hope you'll make this your first choice. You will see why a young Richard Wagner, after seeing this opera, decided to become a musician and writer of operas. This production, though filmed decades ago is stunning!
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
THIS ONE GOT IT RIGHTMay 30 2007
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After viewing two other DVDs of this wonderful opera, I wondered just how much insanity and EURO THRASH would the buyer have to put up with just to get a chance to see this great singspiel. How long would we have to wait for a truly adequate stage recording? Well, our waiting is over. In this DVD we have an exceptionally sung and staged performance. Gottlob Frick has always been an excellent dark bass - just perfect for this role and he was in his sixties when this was recorded. Arlene Saunders is vocally and physically a knock out. Her "Leise, Leise" is magnificently sung. This is a very difficult and long aria; she does it to a turn. The tenor, Ernst Kozub is vocally very fine if a little old for the part. Then we are treated to a young Edith Mathis, Tom Krause and Hans Sotin. WHAT A CAST! Conducting and orchestra playing are also on a high level. Now what really works are the sets, costumes, camera work and a stage director who doesn't impose a ludicrous vision on a German Romantic Masterpiece. This is where the most recent productions all fail. Liebermann and company get the atmosphere just right. This is one of those just perfect Wolf's Glenn settings; complete with a lunar eclipse. This is the FREISHUTZ of choice. Thank you to all involved for making this possible and available. This excellent singing cast is right up there with my favorite recording of this opera on EMI CDS with a radiant Elisabeth Grummer and Rudolf Schock conducted by the late great Wagnerian conductor Joseph Keilberth.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Old, corny, weird and wonderfulDec 21 2009
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I love this film of Rolf Liebermann's 'Der Freischütz' from Hamburg in 1968. Admittedly I have to look away more often than I'd like in order to listen to the great singing and not have to watch the over made-up, technicolor, lip-sinking singers mug there way through this grand old spook opera. It was filmed on a sound stage not in the opera house. The purely musical assets of this film are very fine. Leopold Ludwig conducts a satisfyingly rustic performance of one of the most important operas composed in the early 19th century.
His cast of singers is extremely good. It preserves two now-mostly-forgotten singers as the romantic leads, Max and Agathe. Ernst Kozub (Max) and Arlene Saunders (Agathe) were both extremely good singers who enjoyed brief careers in the 1960s and 1970s (in Saunders case). Kozub burned out early and then died rather young, I don't know what became of Arlene Saunders. The 1992 edition of the Grove Dictionary of Opera writes of her in the present tense, but I haven't heard of her in at least 20 years. It is fortunate to have these two wonderful performances on film, even if they are hobbled by the 1968 German approach to filming opera... it's all very fake looking. But it IS fascinating and oddly disturbing in the wonderful (as staged by Liebermann) Wolf's Glen scene. I loved Bernhard Minetti's Samiel (Satan) in his elegant cardinal red silk cape. And the bizarre films of nocturnal woodland creatures skittering around under the eclipsing moon is oddly chilling. The sets are very good and the painted backdrops are beautiful and evocative. The overall effect is indeed weird, as it should be in this opera.
The entire cast is classic. Gottlob Frick (at the very end of his career) is Kaspar the devil's pawn who tries to kill Agathe using magic bullets. Frick, looking like Boris Karloff as the insane homocidal butler in 'The Old Dark House', is intense. He looks bizarre and sings with a manic abandon that brings you up short. The balance of the cast is pretty amazing when you think about it. Edith Mathis is enchanting as Aenchen, even if her hair style is pure Berlin 1968 and not der Schwarzwald 1812. Franz Grundheber makes a very early appearance in the small part of Killian, his voice was very beautiful when he was young. But the real vocal treats in this film come in the persons of Tom Krause (Prinz Ottokar) and, most especially, in Hans Sotin (the Hermit). They are both in their early magnificent vocal primes and it is a joy to listen to them. Hans Sotin is tremendous in this small but pivotal role and brings the opera to a suitably glorious and happy end. A true Märchen. There's even a touch of Germanic homo-eroticism between the Hermit and the Prince. I couldn't tear my eyes away from Sotin and Krause circling one another and gazing into each other's eyes. I'm not making this up. Echt deutsch
The makeup and hair styles in this film are pretty awful. Das Folk are dressed in Disneyland German peasant garb and hair-sprayed out of all human recognition, and are plastered in heavy theatrical foundation with, in some cases, thick black brows smeared on. The leading lady, Miss Saunders, sports a hefty pair of false eyelashes and what looks like a petroleum-product based wig; it could be rubber from the looks of it. In fact she looks a little bit like a life size rubber doll. There are many similar instances of slightly sinister undertones here.
This is an important opera film of an important opera. There is nothing konzeptual about it. It's old-fashioned, fusty, musty and corny and its the best film of this opera currently available. If you can get past the makeup and wigs there is much to enjoy. If you have to shut your eyes from time to time you will still be in for a great vocal treat. Students of opera will want to have this as it is historically significant. And, more importantly, lovers of this evergreen masterpiece will have to have it in their collections.