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

Prom 57: Semyon Bychkov conducts the BBCSO

Thomas Larcher’s Second Symphony (written 2015-16) here received its United Kingdom premiere, its first performance having been given by the Vienna Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov in June this year. A commission from the Austrian National Bank for its bicentenary, it is nevertheless not a celebratory work, instead commemorating those refugees who have met their deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, ‘expressing grief over those who have died and outrage at the misanthropy at home in Austria and elsewhere’.

40 minutes with Barbara Hannigan...in rehearsal

One of the initiatives for the community at the Lucerne Festival is the ‘40 min’ series. A free concert given before the evening’s main event that ranges from chamber music to orchestral rehearsals.

Prom 54 - Mozart's Last Year with the Budapest Festival Orchestra

The mysteries and myths surrounding Mozart’s Requiem Mass - left unfinished at his death and completed by his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr - abide, reinvigorated and prolonged by Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus as directed on film by Miloš Forman. The origins of the work’s commission and composition remain unknown but in our collective cultural and musical consciousness the Requiem has come to assume an autobiographical role: as if Mozart was composing a mass for his own presaged death.

High Voltage Tosca in Cologne

I saw two operas consecutively at Oper Koln. First, the utterly bewildering Lucia di Lammermoor; then Thilo Reinhardt’s thrilling Tosca. His staging was pure operatic joy with some Hitchcockian provocations.

Haitink at the Lucerne Festival

Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music. His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.

BBC Prom 45 - Janáček: The Makropulos Affair

Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.

Two Tales of Offenbach: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.

Britten Untamed! Glyndebourne: A Midsummer Night's Dream

This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?

Salzburg encores

A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert.  Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.

Leah Crocetto at Santa Fe

On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.

Angela Meade at Sante Fe

On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.

Turco in Italia in Pesaro

When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.

Proms Chamber Music 5: Shakespeare at 400

It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.

La donna del lago in Pesaro

Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.

Proms at … Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at …’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.

Santa Fe: Straussian Sweet Nothings

With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.

Santa Fe’s Civil War Gounod

When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.

Coolly Elegant Vanessa in the Desert

Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.

Le Comte Ory, Seattle

Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.

Racette’s Golden Girl in New Mexico

Fan interest began raging when Santa Fe Opera engaged venerable artist Patricia Racette to make her role debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West.

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):