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Live recording from the Ruhrtriennale 2009 at the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum
Dale Duesing, Andreas Conrad, Ilse Eerens, Karolina Gumos, Finnur Bjarnason, Michael Smallwood & Boris Grappe
Bochumer Symphoniker & ChorWerk Ruhr, Michael Boder
Directed for stage by Willy Decker.
One of the greatest revolutions in the history of mankind happened nearly 3000 years ago: the transition from polytheism to monotheism through the prophet Moses. God revealed himself directly to Moses, instructing him in absolute truth. God’s call to Moses presented a new idea that exploded all previous religious concepts: ‘One God – unique, eternal, intangible, inconceivable’. Moses understands this concept, but is unable to express it, and therefore God appoints Moses’ brother Aaron as his spokesman. They are bound to fail: Aaron can only approach sharing the idea by compromising its meaning, whilst Moses is left to search fruitlessly for “the word I lack …”.
When Arnold Schoenberg composed what he regarded as the dramatisation of his religious beliefs, he felt as though he was himself a Moses of the art. “Endowed with a sense of mission”, Schönberg continually reflected on how “to make the unfathomable, fathomable”.
The operatic staging of this extraordinary idea by Hans Mayer involves scenic visions that make demands on stage machinery way beyond the boundaries of possibility. The impact of his grandiose composition is a deeply religious debate, uncompromising, radical and forthright.
Picture format DVD: NTSC 16:9
Sounds formats DVD: PCM Stereo, DD 5.0, DTS 5.0
Region code: 0
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Subtitles: English, Deutsch, Français
Running time:112 mins
Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days.
Sung in German. Live Recording from the Vienna State Opera 2006, Co-production with the Teatro Real, Madrid
Recording Date: 2006
Place of recording: Live Recording from the Vienna State Opera
Running Time: 110 min. + interview 24 min
Picture Format: 16:9
Sound Format: PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Menu Languages NTSC: D, F, GB, SP
Subtitle Languages NTSC: D, F, GB, I, SP
“Musically, the performance is first-rate, with Franz Grundheber commanding in the Sprechstimme role of Moses, and Thomas Moser coping valiantly with the Aaron's taxing tenor writing. …with Daniele Gatti at the helm this unremittingly intense opera leaves a strong impression.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2007 ****
“A student recently asked Milton Babbitt what he made of the plot of Moses und Aron. 'Oh I don't know, I'm not really a plot person,' he replied.
'Boy meets Girl, Moses meets Aron…' Of course, there's more than a grain of truth to Babbitt's quip.
The bonus to this appearance of Schoenberg's 'opera fragment' on DVD is a discussion which does not attempt to explain what the piece is 'about' (dread phrase) but throws up some arresting images along the way, not least the suggestion that Moses is a 'Führer des Jüdischen Volks'. It certainly accords with the director Reto Nickler's conception of the work as 'a highly topical psychodrama that represents the thorny path between theory and practice'.
Indeed, Schoenberg's absurdly unrealisable stage directions make the last scene of Les Troyens pale into insignificance.
Nickler takes an effectively practical tack, abstract but straightforward. Three-dimensional video conjures the miracles of the First Act, staff into serpent and so forth, while in Act 2 it becomes the focus of consumer materialism.
Aron dons a natty gold jacket while the chorus wave hankies of the same material, economically symbolising the banality of their demands and theology. The Golden Calf is revealed as a set of letters spelling out ICH BIN GOTT, the counterpart of Moses's tablets of stone.
Such intelligent, dramatic pragmatism lends equal lustre to the musical values. It's good to hear a conductor who is steeped in verismo conveying the underestimated sweep of these Biblical declamations, even if it is inevitably at the expense of many of the notes. Both Grundheber and Moser seize every cue for lyrical expression, and the super-size chorus is every bit the collective hero/anti-hero of the piece. The prologue to Act 2 is typically stark and precise, with harsh lighting and tenebrous murk reflecting the sotto voce polyphony of abandonment as the Jewish people sit motionless. Their grim suitcases, their raised clenched fists and mob behaviour, all allude to fresher horrors in Jewish history, until they whip out gold party-frocks and dinner- jackets for the orgy. The Ephraimites become Scaramangas, murdering the true believers to a backdrop of clicking cameraphones and rolling TV coverage – then Z-list celebs totter on as alter egos of the Four Naked Virgins, copulating with the God-letters while Buñuel-esque images of cruelty dominate the giant TV screens. No wonder the Viennese loved it.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Nickler takes an effectively practical tack, abstract but straightforward. Three-dimensional video conjures the miracles of the first act, staff into serpent and so fourth, whilst in Act 2 it becomes the focus of consumer materialism. The Golden Calf is revealed as a set of letters spelling out ICH BIN GOTT, the counterpart of Moses's tablets of stone. Such intelligent, dramatic pragmatism lends equal lustre to the musical values. It's good to hear a conductor who is steeped in verismo conveying the underestimated sweep of these Biblical declamations... Both Grundheber and Moser seize every cue for lyrical expression, and the super-size chorus is every bit the collective hero/anti-hero of the piece.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2007
“Despite the flood of brilliant music that evokes God, Moses, Aron, Israelites, an orgy, and everyone and everything else, the music is essentially only a messenger. And that is the radical, reflexive idea here: that even this opera itself is probably inadequate to convey the basic unknowability of a higher power. That Schoenberg even attempted to address all of this -- using a multiplicity of techniques in the same piece -- is a bit formidable. He tackles a project with dimensions and implications that are far beyond what most of us can even conceive.” MusicWeb International
Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days.