Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hans Heiling (at last)

Always the one for the obscure I managed to track down a DVD of a performance of Marschner's Hans Heiling, usually considered the composer's masterpiece (though I prefer Der Vampyr). It arrived today and I'm sitting watching it as I write.

It's a production from the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari (on Sardinia) and it's not bad at all. Heiling is sung by quite a young baritone (Markus Werba) which makes more sense than the older singers on my recordings. The first scene, unusually before the overture, in the underworld where Heiling's mother, the Queen of the Spirits, begs him not to return to the earth is perhaps a little too red, but generally the sets are fairly minimal, but not bad; Heiling's study could double for that of Doktor Faust. The costumes are a bit ordinary, especially Heiling's unfortunate leotard; thankfully when he gets above ground he covers his modesty, though unfortunately with a frilly red shirt. The sound and vision are OK; the orchestra plays well and so far the rest of the cast is pretty good.

Marschner wrote many operas, most of which never now see the light of day. A pity, because if they are all as enjoyable as this and Vampyr they would brighten up the dreary fare we regularly get presented with by Opera Australia. The end of Act one with Anna running off to dance with Konrad and all the villagers to an insistent off-stage band is a wonderful scene, finishing with Heiling's realisation that she doesn't love him - as the dance swirls on.

Der Vampyr next, please.


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