Superb, moving, melodic!
OperaOnline.us | Boston, MA | 07/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This little-heard Finnish opera about the agony of a mother (Mare) who has to choose between betraying her son (Imant) to save his life, and honoring his life by passively sitting by and watching him die a martyr, is powerful stuff. Based on the 1343 St. George's Night uprising in which peasants hid in grain sacks to gain entrance to the German castle Viljandi, the opera which premiered in 1953 was given only 12 performances, and wasn't heard from again until it was revived in Tallinn in 2004. Ondine deserves a big tip-of-the-hat for bringing this 2004 recording to life in a splendid 2-CD set that is hypnotic from beginning to end and a treasure to the auditory senses. If you like your operas serious, dark and somber, and the orchestration -- provided here by the Estonia National Opera and Chorus -- deep, rich and full, with plenty of emphasis on bass, cellos and moody laments, this is for you. With Kirsi Tiihonen, soprano, brilliantly singing the role of the fated mother, Mare, and Raimo Sirkia, tenor, singing the role of her equally fated son, accompanied by a full chorus and outstanding ensemble cast, this opera, completed during the war years of 1942-43 by 24-yearv old composer Tauno Pylkkänen (1918-1980), demonstrates the very best in compositional skill and understanding of the important interplay between vocal and instrument in opera, and the happy result you get when a composer writes for the pleasure of the audience. The comparisons to Puccini and Menotti's "old fashioned" sense of musicality are offered and are apt in the production notes. This is powerful stuff, taxing on the singers, to be sure, but inspiring, melodic and so fully developed that the libretto by Aino Kallas, and score are a seamless fit that just soars from one title to the next, culminating in a heart-wrenching climax that is emotionally draining and beautiful. The depth of Mare's lament, captured in Kirsi Tiihonen's glorious voice, before she joins her son in his watery grave [On summer nights the swans cried from the bay, on gloomy autumn eves the birds from your misty shores. Now, on a night in early winter, I step into your icy, cold embrace. Receive black waves the heart of a mother who sinned, but on whom God himself sought revenge and who fell beneath her burden. . . "] is potent writing. This 2-CD set is magnificent and beautiful and will give many hours of pleasure to those who own it!"