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Carl Maria von Weber: Euryanthe
Jessye Norman (Euryanthe), Nicolai Gedda (Adolar), Tom Krause (Lysiart), Rita Hunter (Eglantine), Siegfried Vogel (King Lois VI), Renate Krahmer (Bertha), Harald Neukirch (Rudolf), Rundfunkchor Leipzig, Horst Neumann (Chorus Master), Staatskapelle Dresden, Marek Janowski (Conductor)
Recording: Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany (June 29 to July 7, 1974) – 174’05
Brilliant Classics #94682 – Booklet in English

Carl Maria von Weber’s childhood was spent living the nomadic life with his father being involved in the theatrical arena performing various plays and Singspiels throughout Germany. This hopscotch upbringing lent itself to musical training involving a myriad of teachers including Michael Haydn in Salzburg and Johann Nepomuk Kalcher in Munich. Despite this fragmented training, however, Carl Maria von Weber went on to become a virtuosic pianist who greatly influenced Mendelssohn, Liszt and Chopin.

At the tender age of 13 he had already composed his first Singspiel, Die Macht der Liebe und des Weins (1798), but the work was lost as a result of a fire in Kalcher’s home. Out of all operas Weber composed three retain most prominence but for three different reasons: Der Freischütz (1821) for formulating the first “Nationalist” opera, Euryanthe (1823) for development of leitmotif and abandonment of Singspiel in favor of a full musical discourse, and Oberon (1826) with its consideration of Far East musical qualities.

Euryanthe premiered at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna on October 25, 1823 with succès d’estime despite feeble popularity due to its length and confusing plot (weak libretto by Helmina von Chezy.) Even though von Weber subsequently went on to cut 524 bars from the score, Euryanthe has never been able to anchor into the operatic repertoire.

This Brilliant Classics remastering of the 1974 recording is fabulous, sound is excellent and orchestral response by the Staatskapelle Dresden under the baton of Marek Janowski superb. Euryanthe is best remembered by its Overture that introduces the listener to the use of Weber’s leitmotif. It is a wonderful example of technique and a delightful composition.

Jessye Norman’s Euryanthe circulates through the score with a meaty, weighted voice that is fluid with agility in tackling jumps with unblemished ease. Her punctuated remarks give ample justification to her delineation as a fine dramatic soprano. Equally demonstrative in nature are the vocal qualities of Rita Hunter as Euryanthe’s clandestine nemesis, Eglantine. Their duet, “Unter ist mein Stern gegangen”, is replete with a gorgeous blend of thirds.

Illustrious Nicolai Gedda shines with emotional diction as Euryanthe’s betrothed, Adolar. He retains comfort in the middle range, but he slides up and down notes with slurring approach and higher notes are a tad tenuous. Lysiart, Adolar’s competitor, has Tom Krause defining the character with meticulous clarity. He stamps authoritative excellence with virile enunciation. Equally pleasing is the voice mix by the Rundfunkchor Leipzig which plays a prominent role in Euryanthe.

Then why the lower rating on this recording? Even though Euryanthe has some beautiful passages, it’s already a ‘dark horse’ due to Chezy’s weak writing. That should be sufficient reason to provide all necessary tools imaginable in helping clarify the ‘Grand heroic romantic opera.’ The booklet is only written in English, yet when attempting to access the libretto (only available online), one will find it is only written in German with no English translation. Maybe Euryanthe’s detached existence is due to a confounded storyline and the reason and just cause for cutting corners, but if the objective is to resurrect, refurbish and rearticulate an opera that’s already in a fragile state, then more insight into coherent detail should have been given prior to the release.

Christie Grimstad




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