Operatic Repremiere: Notes from the Dresden Music Festival 2012 (7)


 Princess Amalie of Saxony, La casa disabitata: soloists, Helmut Branny (conductor), Dresden Chapel Soloists, Summer Palace, Grosser Garten, 27.5.2012 (JFL)

Concert Performance

Don Raimondo: Ilhun Jung
Callisto: Allen Boxer
Anetta: Anja Zügner
Alberto: Aaron Pegram
Eutichio: Matthias Henneberg
Sinforosa: Tehila Nini Goldstein

I am in beautiful Dresden – birthplace of the coaster– for the annual three-week Music Festival that has taken place since 1978. After Mozart-joys, Malkovichean divertissement, Bach despairs and delights, Thielemann’s Bruckner, and a triple-bill of violinists, it was time for the re-premiere of a royal opera and a Gergiev sighting, which has become a tradition at music festivals around the world.

Princess Amalie of Saxony (1794-1870) was by all accounts an eager student of music and a successful writer of light plays. Her tutors included Carl Maria von Weber (only eight years her senior), and you could read his diary entry about his royal student in any number of ways: “[Princess Amalie] has a beautiful talent and admirable diligence.” Once you’ve heard her long-lost opera “La casa disabitata” (The Uninhabited House), a one-act Farsa unperformed for 177 years, you’re more likely to know how he might have meant it.

There’s nothing wrong with the very charming overture in which the Princess strings together a series of well-formed conventional phrases. At their best they amount to occasional touches of Spohr, within otherwise plain classical flair. The “Phrase-A, repeat – Phrase B, repeat – Phrase A, Phrase B, repeat, repeat” approach is not unusual for music of her time – or rather music before her time, since the prudent rest is like lesser Cimarosa all the way home, and if there was any hint Rossini in there, it wasn’t the good kind. Easily patronized, darling stuff this is; a pleasant 100-minute divertissement that would go down well if iced drinks were served during the performance and if one could lounge on comfy ottomans. The Russian archive that still owns the vocal parts (they were ‘protected’ from Germans after World War II) only allowed one concert-performance (broadcast on August 11th on Deutschlandradio Kultur), but then maybe it’s enough to dig this uninhabited house out only every 177 years.

The Italian libretto, written by the Princess, is a little clunky. In the name of efficiency, I’ll try to convey its lack of eloquence by rhyming the synopsis:

This flat, so says a sign, is free!
The People gather mightily,
“Just how”, they wonder, “can this be?
Should I say yes, the joke’s on me??”

Eu•stich•io studied Lit-Ra-Ture,
And nat’rally he’s rather poor.
“Free”! It’s what I can afford!
And my old wife will be on board.

A caveat: A ghost lives here!
He’s got a gun, so what the hell,
And deftly manages his fear…
When midnight rings the bell.

Callisto, butler, saucy chap,
Followed orphan-rescue with kid-nap,
He locks her in and feeds her Schnitzel,
He’s, if you will, an early Fritzl.

The girl, her name’s Anetta,
Won’t marry him, that cad.
Raimondo would be so much bettuh,
(He’s the owner of the pad.)

At night Anetta runs away,
And after some discussion can convey,
She’s not a ghost per se,
Euastchio takes her on her way.

Sinforosa (wife, no money, aged)
Feels jealously enraged.
Callisto shows, as ghost disguised,
Gets shot, found out, and then despised.

The scheme is up, the truth emerges
A happy-end ensues for all
Raimondo and Anetta satisfy their urges –
And Eustichio: He gets rent-control!

The Dresden Chapel Soloists under Helmut Branny did their merry best and the cast of singers was overqualified throughout: Ilhun Jung, the eager, brazen baritone as Don Raimondo, the ever professional bass-baritone Allen Boxer as Callisto, the delightfully goofy, light baritone Matthias Henneberg with his clean, strong, dramatically anodyne voice in the main part of Eutichio, Anja Zügner’s bright and chirpy Annetta, Tehila Nini Goldstein’s Sinforosa, whose melted into her bits of music and was a real pleasure on the ears, and everyone else. The atmosphere was helped considerably by the surroundings of the Summer Palace in Dresden’s Großer Garten, easily the most charming of the many venues that the Dresden Festival uses.

Jens F. Laurson


Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews



Season Previews

  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera’s 2019 Performances of Stephen Storace’s Gli sposi malcontenti __________________________________
  • NEW! Nevill Holt Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 Aldeburgh Festival at the Snape Maltings in June __________________________________
  • NEW! Garsington Opera’s 2019 30th Anniversary Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Clara Schumann Festival at St John’s Smith Square – 22 to 24 February 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Venus Unwrapped: Kings Place’s Year-Long Focus on Women Composers __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Buenos Aires in 2019 – Largely Traditional __________________________________
  • NEW! Looking Ahead to the 2019 Lucerne Festivals __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

  • NEW! Arthur Butterworth and David Jennings Premieres in Lancaster on 1 March __________________________________
  • NEW! Ivan Putrov’s Against the Stream Ballet Gala Night on 7 April __________________________________
  • NEW! English Symphony Orchestra Bring Music from Wagner’s Epic Ring Cycle to the Swan Theatre __________________________________
  • NEW! London To Hear Long-Overdue Revival of Parry’s Oratorio Judith in April __________________________________
  • NEW! Russian Ballet Icons Gala 31 March 2019 at the London Coliseum __________________________________
  • NEW! Ik zeg: NU: I say now, now … an interview with Richard Causton __________________________________
  • NEW AND UPDATED! SOME OF SEEN AND HEARD’S REVIEWERS LOOK BACK AT 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month