Pucccini’s Edgar: No Masterpiece But Undeservedly Neglected

GermanyGermany Puccini: Edgar, Frankfurter Opern und Museumorchester, Chor and Kinderchor der Oper Frankfurt, Marc Soustrot (conductor), Frankfurt Opernhaus, 16.2.2014 (JMI)


Edgar (Oper Frankfurt, 2014)  (c) Monika Rittershaus
Edgar (Oper Frankfurt, 2014)
(c) Monika Rittershaus

Concert Version

Edgar: Bryan Hymel
Fidelia: Angela Meade
Tigrana: Tanja Ariane Baumgartner
Frank: Marco Vratogna
Gualtiero: Kihwan Sim

Frankfurt seems to love Puccini. Not only are his masterpieces regularly performed here, but also his early operas. If five years ago we had a new production of Le Villi, now it’s Edgar‘s turn, although this time in concert form. The result has been an undeniable success due to a remarkable musical version and an excellent cast.

Edgar does not belong to the category of masterpieces as do some of Puccini’s later operas, but there’s no doubt that the composer from Lucca is present in the score. The big problem in this opera lies in its libretto, particularly in the last act which is almost incomprehensible, not to say absurd. No wonder that after this experience, Puccini devoted much more attention to his choice of librettos.  However, musically this is not an opera that deserves to have fallen into oblivion. It contains excellent music, and I would highlight the two concertante that close Act I, the duet of Tigrana and Edgar in the second act, the prelude to Act III, Fidelia’s two arias in the last act and Edgar’s final scene (which is very demanding, by the way). The version offered in Frankfurt is the last of Puccini’s revisions, done for the opera’s premiere in Buenos Aires in July 1905.

Marc Soustrot led the musical direction, and his reading was much stronger than I had expected. He showed great control of all the musical forces under his baton, took good care of the soloists, and was brilliant in the preludes, the ensembles and the beautiful intermezzo of Act III. The orchestra was excellent, better than the prior evening at Falstaff. There was also a good performance by the choir.

The cast did justice to the big vocal demands of this opera. In Puccini’s later operas, singers can be almost secondary to the quality and popularity of the music, but not so in this case. With mediocre singers, Edgar cannot exist.

Edgar was American tenor Bryan Hymel, who enjoyed an undeniable success. His  voice is very attractive and homogeneous, he is an excellent singer and he overcame the difficulties of the score, with a remarkable Italian diction. His tenor only lacks more power and volume. Should he improve that, he could be the current tenorísimo.

American soprano Angela Meade interpreted Fidelia, and her performance was superb. She sang with gusto, offering a rich voice and an exceptional technique that allows her to produce magnificent piani when needed. She seems to be on a nonstop run to the top of the rank.

German mezzo soprano Tanja Ariane Baumgartner was Tigrana, and her performance was quite good, as it is usual with this singer. She has a wide and rich timbre and is an excellent artist. Her biggest  problem was her incomprehensible Italian diction.

Italian baritone Marco Vratogna was a well-suited interpreter of Frank. He sang most of the time without paying attention to the score, having done the character four years ago in Bologna.

Korean bass Kihwan Sim sang the part of Gualtieron, father of Fidelia and Frank .

The theater was at about 85% of capacity. The audience showed their enthusiasm in the final bows, with sound cheers for Bryan Hymel, Angela Meade and Tanja Ariane Baumgartner, in that order.

José Mª. Irurzun