Notes and Editorial Reviews
Includes libretto is in German only.
Strongly recommended, not only to Schreker fans but to all opera lovers, for that gorgeous love duet.
Stefan Blunier, cond; Ingeborg Greiner (
); Roman Sadnik (
); Daniela Denschlag (
class="ARIAL12">); Mark Morouse (
); Bonn Th Ch; Beethoven O Bonn
MDG 937 1687-6 (3 SACDs: 127:50) Live: Bonn 11/2–7/2010
—flames of madness—is a story that sprang into Franz Schreker’s head merely from the name of a train station (Irrelohe) glimpsed from a railway carriage. He wrote the libretto in three days, a gloomy, Gothic tale of love and madness, full of Freudian dreams, a curse, and revenge. The music took about five more years; the opera premiered in 1924, when his intensely dramatic, immensely colorful big three—
Der ferne Klang
(1918)—were playing everywhere.
never achieved equal popularity, and it is generally considered the beginning of Schreker’s decline into mediocrity. The classic Gothic elements become risible in their multiplicity: a
droit de seigneur
rape of a wedding guest, a Count and his unrecognized bastard half-brother (conceived on the same day?) as rivals for the maiden’s hand, etc. Is this a thriller or is it a take-off? Schreker can’t seem to make up his mind, nor can we.
The music is still warmly lyrical, the shimmering orchestration still lovely, but something is missing: In this opera about flames, the spark has gone out of his music; the result is merely pretty. Vague, gentle preludes offer no hint of the mystery and danger to come. He now demands less of his singers, which seems to defuse the characters rather than aiding the performers—except for an extended love duet in act II, which is gorgeous on all counts, 17 minutes of Schreker at his superlative best.
This is the second recording of
19:4 for a review of a two-CD Sony set with the Vienna Symphony led by Peter Gülke (not
, as written in the
Archive). The two leading roles (Eva, Heinrich) are very well sung, by fine voices, in both sets. Luana deVol (Sony) and Ingeborg Greiner both float long, soaring top notes over orchestral
. Sony’s Michael Pabst is more the Heldentenor than the lyric Roman Sadnik; accordingly, the love duet plays differently. It works well in both cases; I prefer one one day, the other another. Lesser roles are covered adequately in each set. Both orchestras are first-rate. Both are well-recorded live performances with good balances between soloists and orchestra. MDG’s has greater atmosphere, even in straight stereo, but its dynamic range seems excessive; either singers disappear into the background or orchestral climaxes blast one out of one’s seat. On CD, voices are clearer on Sony, but SACD clarifies them for MDG, and multichannel playback adds depth to the Bonn orchestra.
A first conclusion is that
has been accorded performances and recordings well beyond its just deserts, but external matters will influence your choices. MDG puts each act on a separate disc, which is a waste for barely two hours of music. But the two-disc Sony set breaks (unnecessarily!) right in the middle of the love duet, the opera’s only highlight. MDG’s back page says, “English text enclosed. Texte en français inclus. Mit deutschem Text.” But this applies only to program notes and artist bios; the libretto is in German only. Sony has three-language notes and a libretto in side-by-side German and English. MDG is a hybrid multichannel SACD, Sony merely a fine CD. One or the other is strongly recommended, not only to Schreker fans but to all opera lovers, for that gorgeous love duet.
FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
Irrelohe by Franz Schreker
Valentin Jar (Tenor),
Daniela Denschlag (Mezzo Soprano),
Mark Rosenthal (Tenor),
Mark Morouse (Baritone),
Piotr Micinski (Bass),
Roman Sadnik (Tenor),
Ingeborg Greiner (Soprano)
Bonn Opera Chorus,
Beethoven Orchestra Bonn
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1919-1924; Austria
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