University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Weber: Euryanthe

04/21/2024 1:00 pm
04/21/2024 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Carl Maria von Weber's Euryanthe (1823) was intended to build upon the success of the famous Der Freischütz (1821). Euryanthe contains much beautiful music. Its overture is occasionally performed in concert situations, but the opera itself very rarely. No one who has heard it in its entirety could doubt the boldness of Weber's musical conception. It's his only opera that is sung throughout with no spoken dialog. Euryanthe is also an example of a truly great operatic work that suffered from a horrible libretto.

Because he was a nice guy, Weber befriended the second rate poetess Helmina von Chezy and commissioned her to write him a libretto, since he knew she was hard up for money. Remember, she was the playwright of Rosamunde, Fürstin von Cypern, the play for which Schubert provided his well-known incidental music in 1823. That play was a big flop at its premiere in Vienna. The results were the same for Euryanthe the opera in its initial Viennese production. Critics condemned the libretto and praised the music. Since then Euryanthe was hacked up in an attempt to compensate for its bad book. Weber himself had to rewrite the text extensively, but to no avail. In more recent times the opera has been restored to the form in which Weber originally set the words to music.

Way back on Sunday, October 20, 1985 I presented an EMI recording of Euryanthe issued stateside on Angel stereo LPs. It was made in 1975 with the musical resources of the Staatskapelle Dresden and Chorus of Radio Leipzig under the direction of Marek Janowski.

There's another older recording of the opera in its restored form. This one was taped in 1957 in the broadcast studios of Radio Berlin. The young Kurt Masur was conducting the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The German Relief label has issued on compact disc a series of these Radio Berlin recorded broadcasts from the post-WW II period, some in monaural sound, some in very early stereo. This 2017 Relief CD issue is in stereo and its sound is remarkably good considering its age. I last broadcast this now-historic recording on Sunday, June 3, 2018.