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

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

A New Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s innovative, new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust succeeds on multiple levels of musical and dramatic representation. The title role is sung by Benjamin Bernheim, his companion in adventure Méphistophélès is performed by Christian Van Horn.

Netrebko rules at the ROH in revival of Phyllida Lloyd's Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play of the night: of dark interiors and shadowy forests. ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood,’ says Macbeth, welcoming the darkness which, whether literal or figurative, is thrillingly and threateningly palpable.

San Diego’s Ravishing Florencia

Daniel Catán’s widely celebrated opera, Florencia en el Amazonas received a top tier production at the wholly rejuvenated San Diego Opera company.

Samantha Hankey wins Glyndebourne Opera Cup

Four singers were awarded prizes at the inaugural Glyndebourne Opera Cup, which reached its closing stage at Glyndebourne on 24th March. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup focuses on a different single composer or strand of the repertoire each time it is held. In 2018 the featured composer was Mozart and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompanied the ten finalists.

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):