Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Zurich Opera House has recorded more productions for DVD than any other opera house in the world. During the last twelve years, conductor Franz Welser-Möst has conducted more than fifty premieres with the Zurich Opera. They perform regularly together in London, Paris, Tokyo and other major international cities. Welser-Möst has enjoyed a long and very fruitful relationship with the Zurich Opera. From 1995 - 2002, he was Chief Conductor of the House, was Principal Conductor from 2002 - 2005 and was then appointed General Musikdirektor. In June 2007, Welser-Möst was appointed General Musikdirektor designate of the Staatsoper, Vienna, a position he will assume in the 2010/11 season. Prior to that, he undertakes a new
production of "The Ring" in Vienna, which started in the 2007/8 season. He is also Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra.
This production of Tiefland marks the return of an opera to Zurich which has been one of the most successful works on European stages in the first half of the 20th century. The opera’s composer Eugen d’Albert was a cosmopolitan by nature and as a musician. Born in Scotland in 1864 to a Scottish mother and a father of German/French/Italian descent, he grew up in London. He felt close to the German culture, lived in Italy for a while and eventually gained Swiss citizenship. His ‘multicultural’ life is reflected in his works which comprise a wealth of different musical styles and are an indication that d’Albert was on a lifelong journey and search: the search for a possibility of opera after Wagner. He admitted that he wanted and needed to free himself from Wagner’s “engrossing claws?. This is clearly audible in Tiefland but the opera makes it equally evident that he didn’t completely succeed in avoiding the Wagnerian influence Tiefland is the only work by d’Albert which has stayed in the opera repertoire continuously.
The plot is heavily inspired by the Catalan play Terra baixa by Àngel Guimerà. Tiefland is seen today as the only German contribution to the genre of verismo. In its re-worked 2-act form (originally the work consisted of three acts), Tiefland was one of the most frequently performed operas between 1905 and 1945. The fact that – apart from Wagner – Tiefland was one of Adolf Hitler’s favourite operas (which is said to have also motivated Leni Riefenstahl’s film version of the work) has greatly contributed to the controversial status of the opera today. But despite this connection, operas by composers such as Puccini, Verdi and of course Wagner were still more commonly performed during Germany’s 3rd Reich period and d’Albert’s cosmopolitan lifestyle and the elements of jazz which he integrated in his 1929 opera Die schwarze Orchidee (The black Orchid) made him a suspicious figure. After a quiet period following the second world war, the opera slowly found its way back onto the West German and GDR stages and had a real ‘renaissance’ in Germany between 1070 and 1979. This Zurich production spurred another Tiefland revival with several independent productions following suit in Germany.
This Zurich production marks general music director Franz Welser-Möst’s premiere conducting the work. He sees it as very much tied to the era in which it was composed which is his main focus in his own reception of the work. For Welser-Möst, the works main qualities lie in the colours of the score and its refined instrumentation. Another main incentive for him to bring the opera back to Zurich was the availability of the perfect cast and team. Artistic director Matthias Hartmann wanted to reflect the opera’s reception history and its status as one of the most performed works during the 1930s in the production. So despite the opera’s “Hochland? only existing virtually in this production (with the help of Sven Ortel’s video design), the costumes and stage setting are otherwise very much set in the 1930s and in stark contrast to the ‘fictional’ elements. The engagement of baritone Matthias Goerne for the role of Sebastiano in this production was a stroke of luck. The internationally acclaimed lieder-interpreter, who appears only occasionally in handpicked operatic productions, agreed to premiere the role in Zurich. Other critically acclaimed role debuts in this production include tenor Peter Seiffert as Pedro and Petra Maria Schnitzer as Marta.
Works on This Recording
Tiefland by Eugčne d' Albert
Petra Maria Schnitzer (Soprano),
László Polgár (Bass),
Matthias Goerne (Baritone)
Zurich Opera Chorus,
Zurich Opera Orchestra
Written: 1903; Germany
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