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Classical Editor
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ERP Music

Erkki-Sven TÜÜR (b. 1959)
Wallenberg - Jesper Taube; Eichmann - Priit Volmer; Wallenberg 2 - Matti Turi; German Officer - Jassi Zahharov; Ronald Reagan - Väino Puura; The First Survivor - Teele Jōks; The Second Survivor - Andres Köster; The Third Survivor - Mart Laur; The First Guest/Jacob Wallenberg - Mart Madiste; The Second Guest/American General - René Soom; The Third Guest/American Soldier - Aare Saal; The First Diplomat - Helen Lokuta; The Second Diplomat - Annaliisa Pillak; The Third Diplomat - Juuli Lill;Dame - Riina Airenne; Woman - Aile Asszonyi;The First Russian Officer - Urmas Pōldma; The Second Russian Officer - Vladislav Horuženko;The Three Gulag Prisoners - Villu Valdmaa, Alar Haak, Aare Kodasma; Wallenberg 3 - Vahur Agar
The Estonian National Opera Chorus and Symphony Orchestra/Arvo Volmer
rec. live at the Estonian National Opera, Tallinn, 20-22 September 2007
The concept of staging: Dmitri Bertman
Stage Design, Costumes and Staging: Ene-Liis Semper
Stage Directors: Dmitri Bertman, Neeme Kuningas
Lighting Artist: Neeme Jōks
Stereo 2.0 and Surround 5.1. Picture format 16:9
Experience Classicsonline

When I saw Erkki-Sven Tüür’s opera Wallenberg at the Estonian National Opera in the beginning of June 2009 I felt it was one of the strongest experiences that I have had in any opera house ever. I bought the DVD at the same time and my intention was to review it at once. On second thoughts I decided, however, to let it rest for a while. I simply wanted to see if my strong reactions at the live performance had waned when I returned to the opera, which I did almost exactly two months later. It turned out that the experience was, if possible, even stronger the second time around.

The DVD was recorded 18 months earlier with an almost identical cast. The most important differences were that Rauno Elp had taken over the title role and that Risto Joost was the conductor. In order not to repeat myself too much I refer readers to my live review for background information as well as my opinions of the work and the performance. With practically the same singers their interpretations don’t differ markedly, not more than is natural between performances even closer in time. Priit Volmer’s Eichmann is as formidable as he was two months ago and so are the three diplomats. Especially interesting it was to see and hear Jesper Taube as Wallenberg. He made the role his own during the first two seasons and he may be closer to the basic concept of the role. His is a lighter, more lyrical voice and his slightly more recessed approach is probably more in line with Wallenberg’s ambivalence to his mission. Rauno Elp made him tougher.

The greatest difference between experiencing an opera in the theatre and on DVD is no doubt the visual aspects. In the theatre I get the overall view and can choose what to concentrate on. Watching the DVD all the choices have already been done by the video director. The great advantage with that is that the director knows exactly what will happen and can highlight key situations. In the theatre I may miss important information. The many close-ups also heighten the feeling of presence. I can see the facial expressions in a way that I can’t do in the theatre, not even with binoculars. In this production the director also takes down to the orchestra and the conductor, invisible for the audience on location. The Russian officers in the second act more or less step into my living room and the close-ups on Wallenberg make him more alive than in the theatre. On the other hand the spectacular mass scene ‘Wallenberg Circus’ loses something of its impact and Mickey Mouse and Minnie just get lost. In other words: there are swings and roundabouts.

What is never in doubt is the intensity of the drama and the music, and also the committed acting, singing and playing of the whole ensemble. The recorded sound cannot be faulted and even though I have seen more imaginative filming this DVD emerges as a very valuable documentation of one of the most important contemporary operas. We should never forget the horrors of the war, nor should we forget that there were brave people who fought for humanity. Raoul Wallenberg was one such person and this opera - which is far from myopic or uncritical - should be seen, live or on DVD, by as many people as possible.

Göran Forsling



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