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

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

Philadelphia: Putting On Great Opera Can Be Murder

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have gifted Opera Philadelphia (and by extension, the world) with a crackling and melodious new stage piece, Elizabeth Cree.

Mansfield Park at The Grange

In her 200th anniversary year, in the county of her birth and in which she spent much of her life, and two days after she became the first female writer to feature on a banknote - the new polymer £10 note - Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park made a timely appearance, in operatic form, at The Grange in Hampshire.

Elektra in San Francisco

Among the myriad of artistic innovation during the Kurt Herbert Adler era at San Francisco Opera was the expansion of the War Memorial Opera House pit. Thus there could be 100 players in the pit for this current edition of Strauss’ beloved opera, Elektra!

Mark Padmore on festivals, lieder and musical conversations

I have to confess, somewhat sheepishly, at the start of my conversation with Mark Padmore, that I had not previously been aware of the annual music festival held in the small Cotswolds town of Tetbury, which was founded in 2002 and to which Padmore will return later this month to perform a recital of lieder by Schubert and Schumann with pianist Till Fellner.

Turandot in San Francisco

Mega famous L.A. artist David Hockney is no stranger at San Francisco Opera. Of his six designs for opera only the Met’s Parade and Covent Garden’s Die Frau ohne Schatten have not found their way onto the War Memorial stage.

The School of Jealousy: Bampton Classical Opera bring Salieri to London

In addition to fond memories of previous beguiling productions, I had two specific reasons for eagerly anticipating this annual visit by Bampton Classical Opera to St John’s Smith Square. First, it offered the chance to enjoy again the tunefulness and wit of Salieri’s dramma giocoso, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School of Jealousy), which I’d seen the company perform so stylishly at Bampton in July.

Richard Jones' new La bohème opens ROH season

There was a decided nip in the air as I made my way to the opening night of the Royal Opera House’s 2017/18 season, eagerly anticipating the House’s first new production of La bohème for over forty years. But, inside the theatre in took just a few moments of magic for director Richard Jones and his designer, Stewart Laing, to convince me that I had left autumnal London far behind.

Giovanni Simon Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Robin Tritschler and Julius Drake open
Wigmore Hall's 2017/18 season

It must be a Director’s nightmare. After all the months of planning, co-ordinating and facilitating, you are approaching the opening night of a new concert season, at which one of the world’s leading baritones is due to perform, accompanied by a pianist who is one of the world’s leading chamber musicians. And, then, appendicitis strikes. You have 24 hours to find a replacement vocal soloist or else the expectant patrons will be disappointed.

The Opera Box at the Brunel Museum

The courtly palace may have been opera’s first home but nowadays it gets out and about, popping up in tram-sheds, car-parks, night-clubs, on the beach, even under canal bridges. So, I wasn’t that surprised to find myself following The Opera Box down the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe for a double bill which brought together the gothic and the farcical.

Proms at Wiltons: Eight Songs for a Mad King

It’s hard to imagine that Peter Maxwell Davies’ dramatic monologue, Eight Songs for a Mad King, can bear, or needs, any further contextualisation or intensification, so traumatic is its depiction - part public history, part private drama - of the descent into madness of King George III. It is a painful exposure of the fracture which separates the Sovereign King from the human mortal.

Prokofiev: Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution: Gergiev, Mariinsky

Sergei Prokofiev's Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution, Op 74, with Valery Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus. One Day That Shook the World to borrow the subtitle from Sergei Eisenstein's epic film October : Ten Days that Shook the World.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

A Prom of Transformation and Transcendence: Renée Fleming and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

This Prom was all about places: geographical, physical, pictorial, poetic, psychological. And, as we journeyed through these landscapes of the mind, there was plenty of reminiscence and nostalgia too, not least in Samuel Barber’s depiction of early twentieth-century Tennessee - Knoxville: Summer of 1915.

The Queen's Lace Handkerchief: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

Billed as the ‘First British Performance’ - though it had had a prior, quasi-private outing at the Roxburgh Theatre, Stowe in July - Opera della Luna’s production of Johann Strauss Jnr’s The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief (Das Spitzentuch der Königin) at Wilton’s Music Hall began to sound pretty familiar half-way through the overture (which was played with spark and elegance by conductor Toby Purser’s twelve-piece orchestra).

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

Glyndebourne perform La clemenza di Tito at the Proms

The advantage of Glyndebourne Opera’s performances at the BBC Proms is that they give us a chance to concentrate on the music making. And there was plenty of high-quality music-making on offer at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 28 August 2017 when Glyndebourne Opera performed Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito.

Rossini’s Torvaldo e Dorliska in Pesaro

The rare and somewhat interesting Rossini! Torvaldo e Dorliska (1815) comes just after Elisabetta, Regina di Ingleterra (the first of his nineteen operas for Naples) — a huge success, and just before Il barbiere di Siviglia in Rome — a failure.

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):