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Zimmerman: Die Soldaten DVD

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Opera doesn't come harder hitting than Die Soldaten, Bernd Alois Zimmermann's gripping attempt to reinvent the medium from the Modernist perspective of the 1950s and 60s. Those for whom opera means the Italian and French classics will blanch at the stinging vocal writing and complex orchestral contribution replete with jazz combo and electronics in Zimmerman's only work in the genre. Yet Jakob Lenz's story of the dehumanising quality of war needs no apology, and Harry Kupfer's intricate yet explicit staging--relishing the many opportunities for simultaneous action--pulls no punches. Nancy Shade is persuasive as the awkward adolescent Marie, whose naiveté leads relentlessly to her downfall. Michael Ebbecke is sympathetic as Stolzius, her jilted lover and avenger, while William Cochran is properly brutish as Desportes, the officer who initiates her spiral of decline. Bernhard Kontarsky gets a dedicated response from his Stuttgart Opera forces, who perform with belief in this often excessive but always engrossing work. On the DVD: Die Soldaten on disc has a sharp 4:3 picture and PCM stereo sound that shows little sign of age. Director Hans Hulscher has captured with real immediacy the impact of this 1989 production. There are subtitles in four European languages, and a detailed introduction and synopsis in the booklet. The special feature, however, is merely an ArtHaus trailer: a production such as this really deserves a background feature to reinforce its significance and value. --Richard Whitehouse

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