Mozart: Complete Operas

Mozart The Complete Operas, Salzburger Festspiele ★★★
This is the first DVD-recorded cycle of the complete Mozart operas, performed during the 2006 Mozart Festspiele in Salzburg, Austria. Heretofore, most of the Mozart operas were not available at all in VHS or DVD format, but simply as sound recordings. That makes this a valuable part of any Mozart-lovers collection. The production often used young singers, though the general quality of singing itself was absolutely superb. I am quite sure that many of these performers will be seen again in rising roles on the world opera stage. So, why only three stars? First, a number of the operas were reinterpreted, the best example being Die Entführung aus dem Serail, where rather than a story of love and escape from a Moorish harem, the entire opera was modeled, with dialogue changes, to represent a  battle of the sexes. Unfortunately, if one would play with the music, you would say that it is no longer Mozart. I say that it is no longer Mozart if you play too much with the visual aspect of the opera since that was also written by him. The second problem is that the operas were all performed on a totally minimalist stage, the only exception being Die Zauberflöte, with a modernistic design, though properly keeping to the Mozartian storyline. The problem with minimalist operas is that the stage is designed to complement the music to clue the audience to what is happening. Without the stage, one might as well simply listen to a recording of sound only. The minimalism itself was severely lacking in creativity. There was a great predilection for handguns and butcher knives on the stage, or pieces of paper, or running paint over otherwise completely white surfaces. Sometimes very odd complements were added to the staging. An example is in Le Nozze de Figaro, where there was this 18-20-year-old male with wings, constantly coming into and out of the scenery. The stage designer almost certainly was trying to make a meaningful statement by that, but in the end, only created an annoying distraction. It would be like occasionally inserting trumpet calls into the music–distracting and certainly not written in by Mozart. For all their effort to produce these operas, surely they could have done better.