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New German adaptation by WALTER FELSENSTEIN and HORST
SEEGER based on the original score by HENRI MEILHAC and
Feature Film (coloured), produced in the DEFA-Studio, Babelsberg 1973
A fi lm production of the stage version by WALTER FELSENSTEIN
Walter Felsenstein (1901–1975), founder and general director of the
Komische Oper in Berlin, was one of the twentieth century’s greatest
creative theatre directors, who played a hugely important role in the
revival of opera as a theatrical art form. A brilliant artist who directed
over 190 productions during the course of his career, he was equally
committed to the works, their creators, the ensemble and the audience.
After 163 performances Felsenstein decided to make a fi lm version of
Ritter Blaubart. This fi lm can now be enjoyed in a carefully restored digital
form. Felsenstein’s forceful work on the musical and visual language of
the opera fi lm continues to infl uence other productions creatively.
Felsenstein’s Ritter Blaubart is accompanied by the music of French
composer Jaques Offenbach and was performed to great critical acclaim
in Paris in 1866. Opera reviewer Oscar Bie delightfully remarked:
“How the music fl ourishes in soil like this. How the tragedy laughs, and
how seriously the comedy takes itself. […] This is not opera, nor is it
comedy, andonly on occasions is it parody. No, this is something much
more sublime altogether: it is that wonderfully shimmering realm, full
of truth about life, which borders grand fates and all-conquering humour.”
Felsenstein’s adaptation of this diversifi ed opera affords countless
opportunities for audiences to make associations, moments in which
they are torn between laughter and abomination, but which all the
while reveals an aptitude of theatrical magic one could only admire.
The constant switching between comedy and tragedy is a fi ne balancing act
that demands enormous self-discipline and ability from the performers.
Felsenstein himself spoke of the “entirely new style of interpretation”
the work required. This visionary theatre director, who played a hugely
important role in the revival of opera as a theatrical art form, was
exactly what this demanding opera needed. Special Features on DVD:
Script segments, sketches and drafts & performance segments,
interviews, picture gallery
„Arthaus’s scholarly and imposing ‘Walter Felsenstein Edition’ offers a
fascinating glimpse of an important moment in operatic history now
vanished.” The New York Times
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