Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

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



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):