KORNGOLD: Das Wunder der Heliane
CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
Erich Wolfgang Korngold considered Das Wunder der Helianeto be his greatest opera. It has seldom been performed since its premiere in Hamburg in 1927. It is an odd opera about love, sacrifice, redemption and purity. Heliane, wife of a cruel King whom she does not love, goes to visit The Stranger who had mysteriously appeared. The King considers him to be a threat and orders him to death. Heliane goes to visit hi in prison, falls in love with him and symbolically gives herself to him so he might know love before he is killed. The Stranger is killed, and Heliane is tried by the King and court. Heliane, condemned to death, can prove her innocence by resurrecting The Stranger. —which she does. The King then kills her, and the opera ends as The Stranger and Heliane begin their travel to the mystical heaven. An unusual plot to be sure, for for it Korngold composed glorious music.
About a year ago, this site mentioned a Freiburg Opera production that was poorly sung—this opera demands the best singers. This new recording is from Berlin Deutsche Opera, and it is outstanding vocally. It was taped March 29 and April 1, 2018. American soprano Sara Jakubiak is outstanding as Heliane. Relatively new to the operatic scene, she has been singing lighter Wagner roles as well as Marietta in Die Tote Stadt. Her beautiful voice is secure and she impresses in the most famous aria in the opera, Heliane's Ich ging zu ihm, one of the composer's most thrilling, sensitive arias. There is a famous 1928 recording of this sung perfectly by Lotte Lehmann, and you can see Renée Fleming performing it on YouTube. There is a 1992 Decca recording of the entire opera featuring with superb male singers (including Nicolai Gedda), but diminished by Anna Tomowa Sintow. American tenor Brian Jagde also has established himself as a leading tenor in operas of Puccini and Verdi; his singing here suggests he might become a heldentenor, . Impressive indeed in this demanding role. The set, designed by Johannes Leiacer is simple and quite drab. Costumes are by Barbara Droslin, and direction is by Christof Log. The opera has been updated to contemporary times. Modern dress suits are used throughout, which seems inappropriate, as this is supposed to be the court of a ruler, who should be in regal dress. However, what counts is the performance, and it is superb, with a uniformly strong cast. Sara Jakubiakm, in addition to having a remarkable voice, also is very attractive, which is fortunate as in Act I she is completely nude. Very few of today's sopranos colud pull that off! Brian Jagdel also is easy on the eytes, and it is to his credit that he can lie perfectly still for long periods of time. A major plus here is the magnificent orchestra under Marc Albrecht who obviously understands the Korngold idiom and leads a passionate, rich performznce A bonus is a 8 minute audio clip of a 1928 performance of the Prelude ti Act III played by aBerlin Orchestra directed by Frieder Weissman. This is an important issue
FranzWelser-Möst has been MusicDirector of the Cleveland Orchestra since 2002. He has susstained the high standards of previous leaders of the orchestra including George Szell, Lorin Maazel, and Christoph von Dohnányi, and Gaorge Szell. Their Centennial Concert was given in Severance Hall September 29, 2018. It was a rather odd program opening with Oang Lang as soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24. This was followed by a Symphonic Fantasy from Strauss's Die Frau ohne schatten, and after that a walts by Johann Strauss. Perhaps the latter was to prepare the audiene for Ravel's rather diabolial La Valse that ended the program. Excellent performances throughout. A "bonus" is a ten-minute history of the Cleveland Orchestra mentioning all of the onductors plus live commentary by Welser-Möst. High quality audio and video.
One of the mst popular of all ballets, Coppélia by Leo Delibes, is presented in all of its glory in this performance from the Bolshoi Theatre. This light-hearted comic ballet is based on novellas by E.T.A. Hoffmann most of which are somewhat macabre. But all is light and happiness in this story f mechanical dolls and real people Choreography is by Marius Petipta adapted by the great danseur Emrico Cecchetti, revised in a new choreographic version by Sergey Vikharev. It is a spectacular beautiful show presented before a wildly enthusiastic audience. Particular outstanding are Margarita Shrayner as the witty Swanilda, and Artem Ovcharenko as the love-sick Frantz. The corps de ballet is perfect. The camera is always in the right place, and the multi-channel sound is excellent A feast for balletomanes!
RE.B. (June 2019)