Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Semiramide at the Rossini Opera Festival

The pleasures (immense) and pain of Gioachino Rossini’s Semiramide (Venice, 1823). Uncut.

L’equivoco stravagante in Pesaro

L’equivoco stravagante (The Bizarre Misunderstanding), the 18 year-old Gioachino Rossini's first opera buffa, is indeed bizarre. Its heroine Ernestina is obsessed by literature and philosophy and the grandiose language of opera seria.

BBC Prom 44: Rattle conjures a blistering Belshazzar’s Feast

This was a notable occasion for offering three colossal scores whose execution filled the Albert Hall’s stage with over 150 members of the London Symphony Orchestra and 300 singers drawn from the Barcelona-based Orfeó Català and Orfeó Català Youth Choir, along with the London Symphony Chorus.

Prom 45: Mississippi Goddam - A Homage to Nina Simone

Nina Simone was one of the towering figures of twentieth-century music. But she was much more than this; many of her songs came to be a clarion call for disenfranchised and discriminated against Americans. When black Americans felt they didn’t have a voice, Nina Simone gave them one.

Sincerity, sentimentality and sorrow from Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake at Snape Maltings

‘Abwärts rinnen die Ströme ins Meer.’ Down flow the rivers, down into the sea. These are the ‘sadly-resigned words in the consciousness of his declining years’ that, as reported by The Athenaeum in February 1866 upon the death of Friedrich Rückert, the poet had written ‘some time ago, in the album of a friend of ours, then visiting him at his rural retreat near Neuses’. Such melancholy foreboding - simultaneously sincere and sentimental - infused this recital at Snape Maltings by Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake.

Glimmerglass’ Showboat Sails to Glory

For the annual production of a classic American musical that has become part of Glimmerglass Festival’s mission, the company mounted a wholly winning version of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s immortal Showboat.

Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 5: Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman

“On the wings of song, I’ll bear you away …” So sings the poet-speaker in Mendelssohn’s 1835 setting of Heine’s ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’. And, borne aloft we were during this lunchtime Prom by Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman which soared progressively higher as the performers took us on a journey through a spectrum of lieder from the first half of the nineteenth century.

Glowing Verdi at Glimmerglass

From the first haunting, glistening sound of the orchestral strings to the ponderous final strokes in the score that echoed the dying heartbeats of a doomed heroine, Glimmerglass Festival’s superior La Traviata was an indelible achievement.

Médée in Salzburg

Though Luigi Cherubini long outlived the carnage of the French Revolution his 1797 opéra comique [with spoken dialogue] Médée fell well within the “horror opera” genre that responded to the spirit of its time. These days however Médée is but an esoteric and extremely challenging late addition to the international repertory.

Queen: A Royal Jewel at Glimmerglass

Tchaikovsky’s grand opera The Queen of Spades might seem an unlikely fit for the multi-purpose room of the Pavilion on the Glimmerglass campus but that qualm would fail to reckon with the superior creative gifts of the production team at this prestigious festival.

Blue Diversifies Glimmerglass Fare

Glimmerglass Festival has commendably taken on a potent social theme in producing the World Premiere of composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson’s Blue.

Vibrant Versailles Dazzles In Upstate New York

From the shimmering first sounds and alluring opening visual effects of Glimmerglass Festival’s The Ghosts of Versailles, it was apparent that we were in for an evening of aural and theatrical splendors worthy of its namesake palace.

Gilda: “G for glorious”

For months we were threatened with a “feminist take” on Verdi’s boiling 1851 melodrama; the program essay was a classic mashup of contemporary psychobabble perfectly captured in its all-caps headline: DESTRUCTIVE PARENTS, TOXIC MASCULINITY, AND BAD DECISIONS.

Simon Boccanegra in Salzburg

It’s an inescapable reference. Among the myriad "Viva Genova!" tweets the Genovese populace shared celebrating its new doge, the pirate Simon Boccanegra, one stood out — “Make Genoa Great Again!” A hell of a mess ensued for years and years and the drinking water was poisonous as well.

Rigoletto at Macerata Opera Festival

In this era of operatic globalization, I don’t recall ever attending a summer opera festival where no one around me uttered a single word of spoken English all night. Yet I recently had this experience at the Macerata Opera Festival. This festival is not only a pure Italian experience, in the best sense, but one of the undiscovered gems of the European summer season.

BBC Prom 37: A transcendent L’enfance du Christ at the Albert Hall

Notwithstanding the cancellation of Dame Sarah Connolly and Sir Mark Elder, due to ill health, and an inconsiderate audience in moments of heightened emotion, this performance was an unequivocal joy, wonderfully paced and marked by first class accounts from four soloists and orchestral playing from the Hallé that was the last word in refinement.

Tannhäuser at Bayreuth

Stage director Tobias Kratzer sorely tempts destruction in his Bayreuth deconstruction of Wagner’s delicate Tannhäuser, though he was soundly thwarted at the third performance by conductor Christian Thielemann pinch hitting for Valery Gergiev.

Opera in the Quarry: Die Zauberflöte at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt, Austria

Oper im Steinbruch (Opera in the Quarry) presents opera in the 2000 quarry at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt in Austria. Opera has been performed there since the late 1990s, but there was no opera last year and this year is the first under the new artistic director Daniel Serafin, himself a former singer but with a degree in business administration and something of a minor Austrian celebrity as he has been on the country's equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing twice.

BBC Prom 39: Sea Pictures from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Sea Pictures: both the name of Elgar’s five-song cycle for contralto and orchestra, performed at this BBC Prom by Catriona Morison, winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Main Prize in 2017, and a fitting title for this whole concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Elim Chan, which juxtaposed a first half of songs of the sea, fair and fraught, with, post-interval, compositions inspired by paintings.

BBC Prom 32: DiDonato spellbinds in Berlioz and the NYO of the USA magnificently scales Strauss

As much as the Proms strives to stand above the events of its time, that doesn’t mean the musicians, conductors or composers who perform there should necessarily do so.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Siegfried Wagner: Rainulf und Adelasia
08 Mar 2009

Siegfried Wagner: Rainulf und Adelasia

A medieval tale of ill-starred love, in three very long acts, with questions of loyalty to a king and one title character urging another to drink from a cup of poison...

Siegfried Wagner: Rainulf und Adelasia

Minutillo, Trekel, van Aken, Wachutka, Kuckler, Hawlata, Klepper, Janiszewski, Joswig, Lang, Stuttgarter Choristen, Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Werner Andreas Albert

CPO SWR 777 017-2 [3CDs]

$49.99  Click to buy

Siegfried Wagner’s Rainulf und Adelasia might seem to be a work inspired - if that’s the word - by the composer’s father’s Tristan und Isolde.

However, once past the exposition, Tristan und Isolde is a fairly simple narrative, with its great length given over to an expansive portrayal of pained eroticism and obsession. Rainulf und Adelasia, on the other hand, winds its way through a labyrinthine libretto. The synopsis in this CPO set’s booklet runs to three double-column pages, and would prove an exacting test of short-term memory, as few of the events as described seem to bear much relation to whatever transpired previously or what ensues.

Based - very distantly, one imagines - on histories of the Normans in Sicily, the story comes down to the wicked efforts of Rainulf to thwart the ambitions of his half-brother Osmund, who is set to marry one Beata. So who is Adelasia? Strangely, the synopsis doesn’t make the character’s relation to the others clear. However, Rainulf loves her, while she bears an unrequited love for Osmund. Rainulf resorts to the assistance of a witch to win Adelasia, but Adelasia is just too pure and good. When his scheme to discredit Osmund falls through, Rainulf kills himself. Osmund and Beata go off happily, while Adelasia wonders what happiness is.

The booklet contains three essays, all apparently written by Peter P. Pachl and translated by Susan Marie Praeder (they are credited after the final essay). The first relates the story of the opera’s composition in ample - even excessive - detail, though without making it clear whether the composer ever saw the work staged (apparently not). The second essay takes the form of a musical analysis, relating the action to various themes described by their keys and mystifying adjectives. A typical example: “In Rainulf’s monologue…a theme with a triplet upswing familiar from the prelude is heard as stupidity while Rainulf makes fun of the same.” As well he should. The title of the third essay should give a good sense of its contents: “Onomatopoetics and Onomatopoetry.” Here we learn how the character’s names bear insights, such as this: “The second part of Adelasia’s name also alludes to the Greek name »Aspasia« (»Welcome Woman«). The most famous bearer of this name was a Greek courtesan. Accordingly, Adelasia’s name may be interpreted as meaning »noble whore«.” Rainulf might object.

The sixteen-minute overture finds the younger Wagner emulating the aching chromaticism of his father’s score for Tristan und Isolde, but the body of the opera more frequently recalls music from earlier operas such as Lohengrin and Tannhaüser, with martial horn passages and striding themes in a more conservative tonality. From time to time, a certain orchestral touch, such as a wry comment from a solo violin, will suggest that Siegfried Wagner had felt the influence of his contemporary, Richard Strauss. Although it lacks originality, Rainulf und Adelasia still manages to present itself as a creditable composition - outdated in many respects, unmemorable in its themes, but consistently supportive of the drama, such as it is.

A close reading of the back cover reveals that this live recording originated in October 2003 at the Herbstilche Musiktage Bad Urach. Werner Andreas Albert leads a willing and secure reading from the Staatsphilarmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, though from time to time the string sound thins out, and the winds and brass have moments of sour intonation. Considering the long stretches of orchestral carpet Wagner lays out, that’s forgivable.

A strong cast gives the effort all they can. Frank von Aken sings Rainulf, a tenor role, with the right heroic heft and some dark shadings for the character’s malevolent side. Elisabeth M. Wachutka’s Adelasia lacks personality, but they may be a problem with the role, which is close to that of Elsa in Lohengrin in its patience-testing virtuous victim-hood. Roman Trekel brings some star-quality to the role of Osmund. The third act has some attractive music, slightly gypsy-influenced, for the witch Sigilgaita, and Margarete Joswig growls attractively in her big scene.

There are fans who only love the early Wagner, and for them, a Siegfried Wagner opera such as this one should be a very enjoyable listen. But curses to CPO for replacing the “und” in the title with an ugly ampersand on the front cover. Crass & tacky.

Chris Mullins

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):