Felsenstein Edition

Walter Felsenstein Edition ★★★★
This set consists of  Beethoven: Fidelio ★★★★, Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen ★★★, Mozart: Don Giovanni ★★★★, Verdi: Othello ★★★★★, Offenbach: Les Contes d’Hoffman ★★★★★, Offenbach: Barbe-Bleu ★★, Mozart: Le Nozze de Figaro ★★★★.
Felsenstein was the manager of the Comic Opera in East Berlin, and also the producer of these operas. Their distinction with this set is that the operas were all performed in German, though only Fidelio was actually written in German. They are also produced as movies for film. Oftentimes, the opera script was heavily edited, such as Fidelio, with a number of inessential sections removed. In the Tales of Hoffman, additional spoken material is added, and acts 2 and 3 are reversed. The operas work unbelievably well in German, and the modifications mostly improve rather than diminish the operas. These recordings have as much a historical value as well as entertainment value. The first three operas above were in black and white and thus somewhat lacking in the best of quality. The later operas were very impressive, and the Tales of Hoffman and Othello were competitive with the best productions of those operas. The singing and acting were superlative in all the operas. The only opera that I didn’t like so much was Offenbachs’ Barbe-Bleu, but that had nothing to do with Felsenstein or the production, as it was not an appealing opera compositionally.