Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg in San Francisco

Falstaff and Die Meistersinger are among the pinnacles if not the pinnacles of nineteenth century opera. Both operas are atypical of the composer and both operas are based on a Shakespeare play.

Le Nozze di Figaro, Manitoba Opera

To borrow from the great Bard himself: “the course of true love never did run smooth.”

Arizona Opera Presents Florencia in el Amazonas

Florencia in el Amazonas was the first Spanish-language opera to be commissioned by major United States opera houses.

Viva la Mamma!: A Fun Evening at POP

Gaetano Donizetti wrote a comedy or dramma giocoso called Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali (The Conventions and Inconveniences of the Theater), which is also known by the shorter title, Viva La Mamma!.

LA Opera Norma: A Feast for the Ears

Vincenzo Bellini composed Norma to a libretto that Felice Romani had fashioned after Alexandre Soumet’s French play, Norma, ossia L'infanticidio (Norma, or The Infanticide).

Alban Berg’s Wozzeck at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In order to mount a successful production of Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck, first performed in 1925, the dramatic intensity and lyrical beauty of the score must become the focal point for participants.

A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century. In recent days,

Florilegium at Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704).

Leoncavallo’s Zazà by Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà — a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights — is a walking compendium of emotions.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Biedermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.



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):