Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Siegfried Lorenz, Wolfgang Hellmich|
Robert Schumann: Genoveva, Op 81
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Schumann's forgotten opera
Herbert Vaughan | STAMFORD, CT USA | 03/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Genoveva, Robert Schumann's only opera, has unfortunately never entered the repertory, due largely to unfounded contemporry criticisn at the time of its first performances in 1850. This opera is vintage Schumann, full of delightful music. The story of a faithful wife is familiar, in Fidelio and Handel's Rodelinda. This performance is excellent, with Fischer-Diesgau as the heroic husband. The opera desrves resurrection and performnce t in today's repertory."
ENOUGH OF A GOOD THING
DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 09/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Genoveva dates from 5 or 6 years after Schumann's superb Paradise and the Peri. Alas, the overture warns us of what to expect right away. Where the earlier work had handled the orchestra with freshness and style, here we are back to the familiar grey Schumann orchestral sound. There is so much to admire in this work, and the performance is so good in most ways, that it's a pity to have to start on this negative note, but a reviewer's responsibility is to tell potential purchasers what they may be purchasing.
Schumann never wrote any bad music, least of all anything tawdry. Apart from some of the music associated with the sorceress Margaretha, practically any extract from Genoveva would sound attractive in isolation from its context. Two things, I think, make the opera a failure. The first is the orchestration. It is not dramatic orchestration, it is not even good symphonic orchestration, and it goes seriously wrong when Margaretha is about to put in her first appearance. Can you believe this - this beldame is represented instrumentally by a piccolo! The effect is downright ridiculous, and Masur seems uncomfortably aware of the issue from the way he damps down with great caution the first and worst incident. Golo the villain has just sung `ich bin allein'; however he is not alone: the sorceress is hiding and the piccolo lets out a screech - I must quote Shaw - `as if a cockatoo were reminding him it had its eye on him.'
That said, both Margaretha and Golo are very well sung by Gisela Schroeter and Peter Schreier respectively. Indeed the cast is a strong one all round, and it was the names of Schreier and Fischer-Dieskau in particular that suggested to me that if I were going to hear Genoveva presented as winningly as possible this set might be the one to turn to. Edda Moser as the eponymous heroine is probably not quite as good, but she is good enough for any reasonable listener, and the smaller roles are fine too. The chorus do quite well, but as with the orchestration the choral scoring falls short of what I know Schumann can do, witness again Paradise and the Peri. The recording (1978 originally) is perfectly adequate, but be advised that the volume-level is a bit high on the first disc and higher still on the second. Masur handles the awkward score very competently as well, but my feeling would not go away that for this frustrating combination of music that is good just as music but ill-suited to what it is trying to do theatrically more - a lot more - than competence is called for.
The other fault is far more serious, and it is a combination of Schumann's lack of theatrical sense and the storyline. We start with what is really a concert overture, like Beethoven's Consecration of the House or Brahms's Tragic Overture. It is eight and a half minutes of good music, but it is no kind of preparation for the opera, whatever later motifs it introduces. Then trying to put my finger on why the first act seemed so square-toed I thought back to Gluck, and maybe I got my answer. Gluck's operas are sometimes drama and sometimes tableaux. Gluck is always clear which mode he is operating in, but Schumann may not have appreciated the distinction and falls between the two stools, with stodgy consequences. Add to that a lack of differentiation in the music of the three principals, Genoveva Siegfried and Golo, and it is all a bit of a concert on stage until Margaretha supervenes. From here on the book helps differentiate clear musical identities that were lacking before, but at awful cost - the plot from here on is just codswallop. Nothing new or unusual in an opera plot being nonsense you might say, but Schumann is the victim of his own good intentions. Genoveva really does attempt greater continuity than in Fidelio or even in Weber, but the price of that is that he can no longer pass off absurdities as stage-convention. He can't at the same time attempt formal rationalisation and treat a plot like this so seriously. He is between the upper, and the lower, grindstones yet again, and I can tell you it does not do to think back to Freischuetz while listening to the witchy nonsense Schumann is struggling with here.
The libretto is supplied in German only. Very sensibly, the tracks are aligned with the sequence-numbers in the text, but with sublime idiocy the track numbers are not stated alongside the latter. If you wish to check which track you are listening to, then on the first disc you must add 1 to the text sequence-number (to allow for the overture); and on the second disc you must subtract 12 from the text sequence-number (to allow for the first disc). However the interesting and informative German liner note, together with a handy synopsis of the four acts, is given in English and in French also.
Such as Genoveva is, they do very well with it. I might have awarded five stars, but I can't repress the stubborn sense that a generation or two ago there was a conductor who could gather grapes of thistles and figs of thorns. I am genuinely appreciative of what I have been given here, but while I am aware that that the shortcomings in Genoveva are not the conductor's I am still not resigned to accepting that this is all that can be done. Loving Schumann as I do, it should never have happened that I was glad to get to the end of a work of his. Somewhere deep inside me a voice was calling out `Beecham! Beecham!'"
Steven Muni | Sutter Creek, CA USA | 03/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Genoveva", Schumann's only opera, deserves a better fate. There are some weaknesses in the drama, but the music is lovely and at times compelling.
Set during the reign of Charles Martel, king of the Franks in the first half of the 8th century, it tells the story of Genoveva, the wife of Siegfried, Elector of Palatine, (a small state on the Rhine River). Siegfried goes off to fight with King Charles, leaving his wife in the care of his friend Golo, who has a crush on her. When Genoveva spurns his advances, Golo frames her for adultery, with the assistance of his old nurse, Margarethe, and the castle steward, Drago.
However, Golo kills Drago, claiming he was Genoveva's paramour. Siegfried returns to this situation and condemns Genoveva to death. However Drago's ghost frightens Margarethe into revealing the truth, with the end result that Genoveva is spared at the last minute and Golo commits suicide.
This production is conducted by Kurt Masur, with Edda Moser as Genoveva, Peter Scheier as the villanous Golo (unusual to have the tenor as the bad guy), and Dietrich Fmisher-Dieskau as the noble Siegfried. The music is excellent German Romantic opera, and the production is finely sung, with excellent performances from the three leads.
This is an opera well worthy of performance and deserves much better than simply being considered an historical curiosity."