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Schoenberg: Moses und Aron

Filmed at Ruhr Triennale August/September 2009

Andreas Conrad - Aron
Dale Duesing (Moses, R)

Finnur Bjarnason
Ilse Eerens
Martin Gerke
Boris Grappe
Karolina Gumos
Hanna Herfurtner
Renatus Mészár
Michael Smallwood
Dong-Won Seo

Bochumer SO/ChorWerk Ruhr/ Michael Boder
Director: Willy Decker
Set Designs: Wolfgang Gussmann
Costumes: Susana Mendoza
Lighting: Andreas Grüter
Video Director Hannes Rossacher

EuroArts DVD 2058178

Always a "difficult" opera, this version has "got through" to us better than any others heard, or seen staged. Credit must go primarily to the director & video director who make the very best of a huge venue, formerly industrial? This offers tremendous scope for the magnificent chorus, which sometimes merges with the audience, and from which Moses emerges towards the beginning.

A lot of the action is contra-traditional; the Mount Sinai Tablets are on paper, which gets torn into shreds by the people seeking a more tangible revelation; the Golden Calf is gleaming white and is paraded through the orchestra, before finally being covered in graffiti...

The orgy is gruesome indeed - not quite suitable for children who might be shown the opera at home as part of their bible studies...

I doubt whether this DVD will change people's views about the Old Testament myth and its "message", which is clearly transmitted with subtitles in languages of choice. The notes provide a full synopsis and track listing, and an analysis of the opera by Willy Decker.

The chorus is the real protagonist. The relationship between Moses and Aron is a little skewed because Duesing acts so powerfully, and is enormously articulate, albeit in a non-singing part, that he really overshadows the high tenor, sometimes strained, of Andreas Conrad.

Musical values are high and the orchestra gives as lucid a realisation of the score as I remember hearing; clear, well recorded for home listening, only occasionally are solo voices mismatched in relative volume.

An important DVD, which should not be passed by, even by musiclovers who are resistive to Schoenberg's mature musical idiom; where that is abrasive, it is appropriate.

Peter Grahame Woolf