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

On Trial in Saint Louis

That Opera Theatre of Saint Louis fearlessly embraces the cutting edge is once again evidenced by their compelling American premiere of The Trial.

A Traditional Rigoletto in Las Vegas

On June 9, 2017, Opera Las Vegas presented a traditional production of Verdi’s Rigoletto conducted by Music Director Gregory Buchalter with a cast headed by veteran baritone Michael Chioldi. A most convincing Rigoletto, Chioldi was a man in psychological pain from the begining of the opera. His fear and his vulnerability to the whims of the nobility were evident in every meaty, well-colored phrase he sang.

Thumbprint, An Amazing Woman Leaves an Indelible Mark

Thumbprint is the story of the young, innocent and illiterate Mukhtar Mai who was assaulted by a group of powerful men. Following the attack, Mukhtar, having supposedly been disgraced, was expected to commit suicide. Instead, she amazed everyone who knew her by going to the police and calling for the arrest of her attackers.

Kaufmann's first Otello: Royal Opera House, London

Out of the blackness, Keith Warner’s new production of Verdi’s Otello explodes into being with a violent gesture of fury. Not the tempest raging in the pit - though Antonio Pappano conjures a terrifying maelstrom from the ROH Orchestra and the enlarged ROH Chorus hurls a blood-curdling battering-ram of sound into the auditorium. Rather, Warner offers a spot-lit emblem of frustrated malice and wrath, as a lone soldier fiercely hurls a Venetian mask to the ground.

Don Carlo in Marseille

First mounted in 2015 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux this splendid Don Carlo production took stage just now at the Opéra de Marseille with a completely different cast and conductor. This Marseille edition achieved an artistic stature rarely found hereabouts, or anywhere.

Diamanda Galás: Savagery and Opulence

Unconventional to the last, Diamanda Galás tore through her Barbican concert on Monday evening with a torrential force that shattered the inertia and passivity of the modern song recital. This was operatic activism, pure and simple. Dressed in metallic, shimmering black she moved rather stately across the stage to her piano - but there was nothing stately about what unfolded during the next 90 minutes.

Schubert Wanderer Songs - Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

A summit reached at the end of a long journey: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau at the Wigmore Hall, as the two-year Complete Schubert Song series draws to a close. Unmistakably a high point in the whole traverse. A well-planned programme of much-loved songs performed exceptionally well, with less well known repertoire presented with intelligent flourish.

La Bohème in San Francisco

In 2008 it was the electrifying conducting of Nicola Luisotti and the famed Mimì of Angela Gheorghiu, in 2014 it was the riveting portrayals of Michael Fabbiano’s Rodolfo and Alexey Markov’s Marcelo. Now, in 2017, it is the high Italian style of Erika Grimaldi’s Mimì — and just about everything else!

A heart-rending Jenůfa at Grange Park Opera

Katie Mitchell’s 1998 Welsh National Opera production of Janáček’s first mature opera, Jenůfa, is a good choice for Grange Park Opera’s first season at its new home, West Horsley Place. Revived by Robin Tebbutt, Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s 1930s urban setting emphasises the opera’s lack of sentimentality and subjectivism, and this stark realism is further enhanced by the narrow horseshoe design of architect Wasfi Kani’s ‘Theatre in the Woods’ whose towering walls and narrow width seem to add further to the weight of oppression which constricts the lives of the inhabitants.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera

“I am nearer to the greatest secrets of the next world than I am to the smallest secrets of those eyes!” So despairs Golaud, enflamed by jealousy, suspicious of his mysterious wife Mélisande’s love for his half-brother Pelléas. Michael Boyd’s thought-provoking new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Garsington Opera certainly ponders plentiful secrets: of the conscience, of the subconscious, of the soul. But, with his designer Tom Piper, Boyd brings the opera’s dreams and mysteries into landscapes that are lit, symbolically and figuratively, with precision.

Carmen: The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival, artistic director Michael Chance, has opened at Northington Grange giving everyone a chance to see what changes have arisen from this change of festival at the old location. For our first visit we caught the opening night of Annabel Arden's new production of Bizet's Carmen on Sunday 11 June 2017. Conducted by Jean-Luc Tingaud with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in the pit, the cast included Na'ama Goldman as Carmen, Leonardo Capalbo as Don Jose, Shelley Jackson as Micaela and Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo. There were also two extra characters, Aicha Kossoko and Tonderai Munyevu as Commere and Compere. Designs were by Joanna Parker (costume co-designer Ilona Karas) with video by Dick Straker, lighting by Peter Mumford. Thankfully, the opera comique version of the opera was used, with dialogue by Meredith Oakes.

Don Giovanni in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera revved up its 2011 production of Don Giovanni with a new directorial team and a new conductor. And a blue-chip cast.

Dutch National Opera puts on a spellbinding Marian Vespers

A body lies in half-shadow, surrounded by an expectant gathering. Our Father is intoned in Gregorian chant. The solo voices bloom into a chorus with a joyful flourish of brass.

Into the Wood: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Snape Maltings

‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows.’ In her new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Netia Jones takes us deep into the canopied groves of Oberon’s forest, luring us into the nocturnal embrace of the wood with a heady ‘physick’ of disorientating visual charms.

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Every once in a while a warhorse redefines itself. This happened last night in San Francisco when Rigoletto propelled itself into the ranks of the great masterpieces of opera as theater — the likes of Falstaff and Tristan and Rossini’s Otello.

My Fair Lady at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In its spring musical production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady Lyric Opera of Chicago has put together an ensemble which does ample justice to the wit and lyrical beauty of the well-known score.

Henze: Elegie für junge Liebende

Hans Werner Henze’s compositions include ten fine symphonies, various large choral and religious works, fourteen ballets (among them one, Undine, that ranks the greatest of modern times), numerous prominent film scores, and hundreds of additional works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo instruments or voice. Yet he considered himself, above all, a composer of opera.

Werther at Manitoba Opera

If opera ultimately is about bel canto, then one need not look any further than Manitoba Opera’s company premiere of Massenet’s Werther, its lushly scored portrait of an artist as a young man that also showcased a particularly strong cast of principal artists. Notably, all were also marking their own role debuts, as well as this production being the first Massenet opera staged by organization in its 44-year history.

Seattle: A seamlessly symphonic L’enfant

Seattle Symphony’s “semi-staged” presentation of L’enfant et les sortilèges was my third encounter with Ravel’s 1925 one-act “opera.” It was incomparably the most theatrical, though the least elaborate by far.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

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):