"One hundred fifty years ago, the great mezzo-soprano, composer, and pedagogue Pauline García Viardot created the salon opera Le dernier sorcier ('The Last Sorcerer') in collaboration with the acclaimed Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev. The piece centered on themes of power and progress, gender and equality, and the restoration of natural order in an ever-changing world. A chamber opera in two acts, Le dernier sorcier revolves around Krakamiche, a once-powerful sorcerer whose presence in the great woods has upset the fairies, the forest’s rightful inhabitants, and disturbed the harmony of the land. Through the combined efforts of the fairy folk and their queen, the sorcerer's daughter and her prince, and a hapless valet,Read more Krakamiche ultimately learns key truths about humility, love, and living in harmony with the natural world. Viardot's original manuscript, scored for solo voices, treble chorus, and piano, was held in a private collection for over a century, and as such, the work essentially vanished. Recently, the original piano-vocal score was acquired by Harvard University’s Houghton Library, which has granted permission to produce this world premiere recording."
Le dernier sorcier is a lovely discovery. It is not a lost masterpiece, but it is a work that brought me real pleasure. I will return to it in the future, especially in this high-spirited performance. The recorded sound is a bit cavernous and unfocused for my taste; I would have appreciated a greater presence for the voices. Bridge provides extensive and informative notes and a complete French-English libretto.
If you ever thought that opera is sometimes an overblown genre and could profit from a bit of modesty, here’s a wonderful example of that. The Last Sorcerer could be performed in a small hall or even somebody’s living room and lasts a mere hour, yet it addresses deep human issues and a wide range of feelings. Bridge came out last year with a superb first complete recording of The Cradle Will Rock by Blitzstein with the original orchestrations. Here they take a chance on an even more obscure but also delightful and sometimes touching work.