Sunday May 7: To American ears the name in
German is quite a mouthful: Die Entfuhring aus dem Serail. It means "The
Abduction from the Seraglio" in English, and it stands alongside Mozarts
"The Magic Flute" as one of the two greatest examples of singspiel. I
last broadcast this Mozart masterwork on Sony CDs on Sunday, October 4, 1992, with
Bruno Weil leading the Vienna Symphony and featuring the voice of soprano Cheryl Studer.
Many recordings have been made of "The Abduction" over the years, but only very
recently has it been interpreted on disc as lighthearted comic work in the style of the
popular eighteenth century German theatrical genre, not as a ponderous grand opera, in the
way that is has usually been treated in the twentieth century. Christopher Hogwoods
1990 interpretation for LOiseau Lyre is historically informed in every aspect.
Beyond that, it is completely musically pleasing and artistically convincing. Writing in
the March/April 92 issue of Fanfare magazine, reviewer James Camner says
flatly "It is by far the vest performance on records."
Sunday May 14: Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (1776-1822) is known to
the musical public today as the writer who inspired Tchaikovskys ballet
"Nutcracker" and provided the storyline for Jacques Offenbachs opera
"Tales of Hoffmann." E.T.A. Hoffmann was a man of many parts: author, jurist,
music critic, cartoonist and (believe it or not!) composer of at least ten operas that
were pioneering works of German Lyric theater paralleling those of Carl Maria von Weber.
In his heroic three-actor Aurora (1812) Hoffmann catapulted the genre of singspiel,
as epitomized in Mozarts "The Magic Flute," into a new, higher dimension
of truly grand opera. Aurora was recorded in 1990 in Banberg, Germany with the
musical resources of the Youth Orchestra of Bamberg and the Bamberg Oratorio choir,
directed by Hermann Dechant. The vocal soloists were drawn from master classes at the High
Schools for Music in Wurzburg, Munich and Vienna.
Sunday May 21: At the very least, the 1991 Fonicetra Italia
release of Rossinis Adelaide di Borgogna 91817) fills a gap in the catalog of
current CD recordings of the masters 39 operas. Italias Adelaide is not
the first on disc: a concert performance of this obscure work in the Rossini canon was
taped in 1978 for LP release on a small private label. Critics have long dismissed Adelaide
as a tiresome medieval melodrama. But it has plenty of passages of stunningly impressive belcanto
pyrotechnics, and is quite similar in its overall dramatic effect to the much better known
Tancredi (1813). Music critic and Rossini fanatic David Johnson praises the Italia Adelaide
for both splendid performance and excellent sound (Fanfare, Jan/Feb 94). He
raves about the singing of soprano Mariella Devia in the title role. He says she meets the
qualifications of a prima donna assoluta. Rossini scholar and conductor Alberto
Zedda prepared the score for a 1984 staging of Adelaide at the tenth annual
Festival della Valle dItria.
Sunday May 28: Programming for the Sunday that in modern America
opens the summer season the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend looks forward to
the actual beginning of summer at the solstice. Michael Tippetts The Midsummer
Marriage (1955) is a modern reinterpretation of the ancient pagan solstice myth about
the union of opposites. As with all his other dramatic works Tippett wrote his own
libretto for his midsummer opera. General acceptance of such a strange dream-like work as
viable lyric theater (and a masterpiece at that!) was a long time coming, but that time
has surely arrived. In terms of archetypes and the psychology of dreams, this has got to
be the most Jungian of all operas! The Midsummer Marriage was recorded in 1970 with
Sir Collin Davis conducting the Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent
Garden. That recording has lately been in circulation as a two CD Lyrita set. This Sunday
Larry Bilansky will be doing the audio presentation in my absence.
Sunday June 4: As the Nazi era dawned in Germany Paul
Hindemith began writing his tenth opera Mathis der Maler. The story of the opera
concerns the sixteenth century German painter Mathias Gruenewald (aka Mathis Gothart or
Nidhart) and his conflict with both church and state in the turbulent period of the
reformation. Because the story touched upon issues of artistic freedom of expression,
Hitler himself forbade performance of this opera. Hindemith had to go outside the Reich,
to Zurich, Switzerland in order to get Mathis staged, and the world premiere
production has to be put off until 1938. The world premiere recording of Mathis
came along many years later, in1977. EMI made it in co production with Radio Bavaria.
Rafael Kubelik conducted the Bavarian Radio chorus and symphony orchestra, with baritone
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau taking the title role. Although the EMI Mathis has been
reissued in CD upgrade, youll hear it as it was originally issued here in the US, on
three Angel LPs.
Sunday June 11: On Sunday, November 22, 1998 I presented a Nuova
Era recording of Vincenzo Bellinis very first opera Adelson e Salvini (1825).
This Sunday you get to hear Bellinis second opera Bianca e Fernando (1826) in
its world premiere recording for the same Italian label. Both recordings were made at the
Teatro Bellini in the Sicilian city of Catania, which is Bellinis birthplace. Nuova
Era taped Biance e Fernando in the course of the 1991 Bellini Festival there.
Andrea Licata conducts the chorus and orchestra of the Teatro Bellini. This melodrama in
two acts is not great Bellini, but is certainly a very good work by a young
composer whose star was on the rise. Writing for Fanfare magazine (Nov/Dec 93
issue) reviewer James H. North maintains "Licata and his forces make a real case for Biance,
playing and singing with real commitment
Sunday June 18: Todays programming introduces you to two
of the strangest female characters in all of opera. Myrtocle is the name of a beautiful
blind woman who is the anti-heroine of Eugen DAlberts long one act opera Die
Toten Augen ("The Dead Eyes" 1916). Although Jesus Christ miraculously
restores her sight on Palm Sunday, Myrtocle blinds herself again, preferring to live in
her own dark world of illusions. The sensual richness of DAlberts score for Die
Toten Augen may remind you of Richard Strauss Salome. DAlbert
enjoyed only one other major operatic success with Tiefland ("The
Lowlands," 1903), extensive highlights of which were heard on Sunday, September 3,
1995 on a single Berlin Classics CD. Now cpo Records has released Die Toten Augen
as a two-CD set. Ralf Wiekert conducts the Dresden Philharmonic and Philharmonic Chorus,
with soprano Dagmar Schellenberger as Myrtocle.
Hervor is the name of a young Scandinavian maiden who passes as a male
warrior in Wilhelm Stenhammars Trifling (1898), a romantic opera in two acts
based on the old Norse Heryarar Saga. The magic all-vanquishing sword Tirfing can
only be passed on from father to son, but Hervor, after fighting with her fathers
ghost, takes possession of the legendary weapon. Hervor is so successful in her masquerade
you could almost describe her as a female-to-male transsexual, a Brandon Tena of barbarian
Europe. So convincing is she in her new identity as the Viking Hervardur that he/she wins
the love of the Norse princess Gullvag. Hervardur/Hervor reveals the truth to Gullvag. The
world premiere recording of extensive excerpts from Tirfing came out on a single
hour-long compact disc from Sterling Records of Sweden. Tirfing was taped in 1999
in the Stockholm Concert Hall in an unstaged concert version. Leif Segarstam conducts the
Royal Opera Orchestra of Stockholm.
Sunday June 25: Dalibor (1868 by Bedrich Smetana is
rather like Beethovens Fidelio put into a Czech context. Dalibor is a
fifteenth-century Bohemian nobleman who has been unjustly imprisoned. In an effort to free
him, Dalibors sister Milada disguises herself as a boy in order to gain entrance to
the jail. In Fidelio the prisoners liberation is heralded by a trumpet call.
In Dalibor it is tipped off by Dalibors playing on a fiddle. Unlike Fidelio,
however, Smetanas opera comes to a tragic end. Dalibor comes to us on two
Praga CDs, the 1994 reissue of a 1977 air tape or the opera heard over Czech Radio
of Prague. Jaroslav Kromhole conducts the Prague Radio Symphony Chorus and Orchestra.
Its been ages since Ive obtained anything on loan for broadcast
from the Allen Memorial Library of the Hartt School. The LP copy of Hindemiths Mathis
der Maler comes out of the Allen Librarys stacks. Thanks to head librarian Linda
Blottner for the permission to borrow from their extensive collection of classical
LPs and CDs. The Hartt School, by the way, is one of the constituent fine arts
colleges of the University or Hartford. The Hartford Public Library also has a huge
collection of classical music on disc. From the HPLs holding I have borrowed E.T.A.
Hoffmanns Aurora, Rossinis Adelaide di Borgogna, Bellinis Bianca
e Fernando and Smetanas Dalibor. Thanks to the HPLs music librarian
Bob Chapma for the arrangement of the special loan. One private collector contributed
something to this two-month spate of programming: Rob Meehan, former classics deejay her
at WWUH and a specialist in twentieth century alternative music. Rob has kindly loaned me
his copy of Tippetts Midsummer Marriage. Mozarts "Abduction"
comes out or my own collection. The operas by DAlbert and Stenhammar are new
acquisitions to out stations ever-growing library of classical music recordings.
Thanks again to Larry Bilansky, my fellow WWUH staff member, for freeing me to ride the
entire Connecticut Bicycle Coalitions Hartford Parks Tour on Sunday, May 28. I will
be taping news feature material in the course of the tour that will go into the new public
affairs program I am producing, "Your Radio Slipstream," which is a half-hour
long show devoted entirely to contemporary bike culture, bicycle history and velosport.
Even when Im not doing radio Ill be doing radio!
Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 2000