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

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

A humourless hike to Hades: Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld at ENO

Q. “Is there an art form you don't relate to?” A. “Opera. It's a dreadful sound - it just doesn't sound like the human voice.”

Welsh National Opera revive glorious Cunning Little Vixen

First unveiled in 1980, this celebrated WNO production shows no sign of running out of steam. Thanks to director David Pountney and revival director Elaine Tyler-Hall, this Vixen has become a classic, its wide appeal owing much to the late Maria Bjørnson’s colourful costumes and picture book designs (superbly lit by Nick Chelton) which still gladden the eye after nearly forty years with their cinematic detail and pre-echoes of Teletubbies.

Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With a charmingly detailed revival of Gioachino Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia Lyric Opera of Chicago has opened its 2019-2020 season. The company has assembled a cast clearly well-schooled in the craft of stage movement, the action tumbling with lively motion throughout individual solo numbers and ensembles.

Romantic lieder at Wigmore Hall: Elizabeth Watts and Julius Drake

When she won the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize in the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, soprano Elizabeth Watts placed rarely performed songs by a female composer, Elizabeth Maconchy, alongside Austro-German lieder from the late nineteenth century.

ETO's The Silver Lake at the Hackney Empire

‘If the present is already lost, then I want to save the future.’

Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco (bis)

The final performance of San Francisco Opera’s deeply flawed production of the Gounod masterpiece became, in fact, a triumph — for the Romeo of Pene Pati, the Juliet of Amina Edris, and for Charles Gounod in the hands of conductor Yves Abel.

William Alwyn's Miss Julie at the Barbican Hall

“Opera is not a play”, or so William Alwyn wrote when faced with criticism that his adaptation of Strindberg’s Miss Julie wasn’t purist enough. The plot is, in fact, largely intact; what Alwyn tends to strip out is some of Strindberg’s symbolism, especially that which links to what were (then) revolutionary nineteenth-century ideas based around social Darwinism. What the opera and play do share, however, is a view of class - of both its mobility and immobility - and this was something this BBC concert performance very much played on.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Cast salvages unfunny Così fan tutte at Dutch National Opera

Dutch National Opera’s October offering is Così fan tutte, a revival of a 2006 production directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, originally part of a Mozart triptych that elicited strong audience reactions. This Così, set in a hotel, was the most positively received.

English Touring Opera's Autumn Tour 2019 opens with a stylish Seraglio

As the cheerfully optimistic opening bars of the overture to Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (here The Seraglio) sailed buoyantly from the Hackney Empire pit, it was clear that this would be a youthful, fresh-spirited Ottoman escapade - charming, elegant and stylishly exuberant, if not always plumbing the humanist depths of the opera.

Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice: Wayne McGregor's dance-opera opens ENO's 2019-20 season

ENO’s 2019-20 season opens by going back to opera’s roots, so to speak, presenting four explorations of the mythical status of that most powerful of musicians and singers, Orpheus.

Olli Mustonen's Taivaanvalot receives its UK premiere at Wigmore Hall

This recital at Wigmore Hall, by Ian Bostridge, Steven Isserlis and Olli Mustonen was thought-provoking and engaging, but at first glance appeared something of a Chinese menu. And, several re-orderings of the courses plus the late addition of a Hungarian aperitif suggested that the participants had had difficulty in deciding the best order to serve up the dishes.

Handel's Aci, Galatea e Polifemo: laBarocca at Wigmore Hall

Handel’s English pastoral masque Acis and Galatea was commissioned by James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos, and had it first performance sometime between 1718-20 at Cannons, the stately home on the grand Middlesex estate where Brydges maintained a group of musicians for his chapel and private entertainments.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Siegfried Wagner: Der Schmeid von Marienburg
11 Oct 2009

Siegfried Wagner: Der Schmeid von Marienburg

Will the 22nd century still see the opera-loving world as fascinated by the ongoing saga of the Wagner family as the 20th did and the 21st does?

Siegfried Wagner: Der Schmeid von Marienburg

Marco Polo 8.225346-48 [3CDs]

$30.98  Click to buy

They retain essential control over their great ancestor’s festival theater in Bayreuth, and their squabbles, successes, and failures make headlines with regularity. The line might well have died out if Richard Wagner’s son Siegfried had not decided late in life that he needed to marry and produce heirs - although even the booklet essay of this Marco Polo recording of the thirteenth of Siegfried’s operas makes no compunction about calling Siegfried a homosexual. His marriage to Winifred produced the desired children, but Peter P. Pachl’s notes, translated by Keith Anderson, claim that Winifred blocked further performances of her husband’s works after his passing, and burnt his uncompleted compositions.

All that drama, historical and psychological, proves more interesting than Siegfried’s actual work, unfortunately. Marco Polo’s booklet in the set for Der Schmeid von Marienburg provides no libretto (an internet address is given for a German libretto only), but it does have notes on the opera’s production, the historical background of its story, and a biography of the composer, all by Rupert Lummer, besides the Pachl note. Lummer maintains that Siegfried’s operas “are very different from those of his father,” tying Siegfried’s development to his teacher, Humperdinck. Yet Humperdinck famously helped with the music to some transitional passages to Parsifal, and many have heard the influence of Wagner’s style in the score to Hansel und Gretel. In the Siegfried opera here not only does the title resemble that of his father’s great comic opera, but both are set in the Middle Ages. Plot details otherwise differ, it’s true, but to listen to the music of Siegfried’s opera, especially of acts one and two, is to hear many passages resembling the earlier work of father Richard, especially from Lohengrin or Tannhaüser. Long monologues dominate the narrative, and the idiom of swooping horns and anxious strings invites comparison to those earlier Richard Wagner scores. Act three does have some music that suggests Siegfried’s talent did not only lie in producing work that, to put it as nicely as possible, honored the memory of his father’s creations. If only he had pursued an artistic route distant from his father’s achievements, Siegfried’s operas might be more than curiosities.

Der Schmeid von Marienburg provokes little interest, despite being a curiosity. The detailed plot synopsis baffles more than clarifies, and just one line from one scene of one act should serve to catch the general flavor: “On the square in front of the Marienburg, Muthart explains how the army’s defeat at the Tannenburg was caused by the treacherous Lizard Knights of Kulm.” Besides Lizard Knights, watch for a devil-figure called The Lame Wanderer” (who gets the best music), secret tunnels, a “newly-forged” helmet, and much more. Too much more, if fact, and yet not enough recognizable human psychology, which Richard Wagner always had, even in his most far-fetched action. Wagner also had a supreme gift for memorable melody, which his son, sadly, did not inherit. But Siegfried was not an incompetent composer. The orchestration holds together a loose fabric of themes and motifs. It just never breaks free often enough into an individual style.

This live performance originated from essay-author Pachl’s June 2008 production at the Filharmonia Gdańsk, with Frank Strobel conducting the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra. Without a libretto, following the action and identifying particular roles becomes all but impossible, especially as Marco Polo divides each act of over an hour into just a few tracks; act two on disc two has 64 minutes of music and only 5 tracks. The cast list gives 17 roles. The men fare very well, but one of the sopranos, possibly Maacha Deubner but more probably Rebecca Broberg in the role of Friedelind, has the sort of big, heroic voice that strays fairly often from pitch -a quality admittedly not unknown in performances of Richard’s work.

For a live recording, the sound is admirably clear and spacious. Followers of the never-ending Wagner family saga may want this, or any lover of early Wagner who would like more of the same - and yet, less.

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):