Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Heinrich Marschner: Hans Heiling
14 Oct 2005

MARSCHNER: Hans Heiling

This Dynamic set spills over with rewards for opera lovers, especially those looking for something a little (or a lot) off the beaten path.

Heinrich Marschner: Hans Heiling.
Libretto by Eduard Devrient.

Marcus Werba, Anna Caterina Antonacci, Herbert Lippert. Orchestra, Coro e Coro di voci bianche del Teatro Lirico di Caligari, Renato Palumbo (cond.).

Dynamic 33467 [2DVDs]

 

First is the repertory item itself. Heinrich Marschner’s career bloomed in the years between Beethoven and Wagner. Mendelssohn dominated this time; in fact, the libretto for Hans Heiling was offered to Mendelssohn before it came to Marschner. Premiered in 1833, the opera succeeded, but Marschner’s career dimmed afterward, and this and Das Vampyr remain beguiling curiosities.

Pier Luigi Pizzi designed and directed this production for the Teatro Lirico di Caligari. As captured by Dynamic’s cameras, the sets most effectively capture the underworld origin of the title character, a half-human, half-supernatural being who lives with his mother, the Queen of the Gnomes. Painted backdrops serve to both establish the geographical reference and to place the work in a romantic, non-naturalistic frame, entirely appropriate for the work. The main physical setting looks like a cooled lava-overflow; later scenes, set in the human world, rely more on the backdrops than on props.

Heiling opens the opera bored with his underworld existence and pining for a woman. His mother warns him to stay with his own kind, but Heiling leaves to romance Anna, a young woman whose mother is most impressed by Heiling’s wealth. Unfortunately, Anna already loves a local boy, Konrad. Pressed by her mother, she agrees to marry Heiling, but when the gnome realizes that her heart belongs to another, he lashes out at his rival. Finally he realizes that he could never be accepted into the human world and descends to his home and mother, leaving Anna and Konrad to temporal bliss.

How the opening scene must have struck Wagner, who surely saw the opera. A sort of funhouse mirror reflection of Alberich in Rheingold, Heiling is bored with the treasures of the gnomes and feels that only an amorous connection with a human female can make him happy. Eduard Devrient’s libretto prefers long monologues delineating states of mind to conventional story telling, and a static, even awkward narrative probably presents the real stumbling block to Marschner’s opera finding a home in today’s opera houses. Brief spoken dialogue links some of the set pieces.

But the music! The opening scene’s eerie children’s chorus of gnomes establishes Marschner’s command of mood, and though none of the melodies remain long in one’s head, they have an originality and complexity of development that more than compensates.

And Dynamic has assembled a worthy cast to give the music the performance it deserves. Markus Werba is youthful and attractive both in appearance and voice, and his Heiling presents a charismatic figure in the depressed-bad-boy mode. In fact, many a viewer may wonder what Anna Caterina Antonacci’s Anna sees in the bland, chubby Konrad of Herbert Lippert. However, Werba is done no favors by the red tights of the opening scene. He makes a more impressive figure in a white suit donned for his visit to the surface world.

Anna Caterina Antonacci’s career appears to be taking off, and here is great evidence for why. A truly striking woman, she sings with great precision and control, although the top can be tentative. Her long scene that opens act two is almost worth acquiring this set by itself, as Antonacci delineates the confused emotions of Anna. The character, unfortunately, grows more conventional as the opera proceeds, but Antonacci has the ability to hold our interest even when she is not singing.

The rest of the cast do well enough, though Gabriele Fontana’s Konigin suggests that immortality inflicts some wear and tear on the voice.

The final reward of this set is the strong leadership of Renato Palumbo. He infuses the score with passion and color, indicating the strengths that have just led to his appointment as replacement to Christian Thielmann at Deutsche Oper Berlin. Still relatively youthful, this conductor looks to be set on a remarkable career.

So for the opera itself, the two leads, and the conductor, Dynamic deserves our thanks for this Hans Heiling. Now how about Das Vampyr?

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):