A Seldom Performed Schubert Opera has its La Scala Premiere

20/06/2018

ItalyItaly Schubert, Fierrabras: Teatro alla Scala Chorus and Orchestra / Daniel Harding (conductor), Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 19.6.2018. (JMI)

Fierrabras © Brescia/Amisano/Teatro alla Scala

Cast:
Fierrabras – Bernard Richter
Florinda – Dorothea Röschmann
Eginhard – Peter Sonn
Roland – Markus Werba
Emma – Anett Fritsch
Charlemagne – Sebastian Pilgrim
Boland – Lauri Vasar
Maragond – Marie-Claude Chappuis
Ogier – Martin Pinkorski

Production:
Direction – Peter Stein
Sets – Ferdinand Wögerbauer
Costumes – Anna Maria Heinrich
Lighting – Joachim Barth

Franz Schubert composed Fierrabras in 1823, but he did not live to see it performed. A rather mutilated concert version could be seen in Vienna in 1835, but the first true performance of the opera was in 1897 in Karlsruhe. The opera, which is based on the Chanson de Roland, has a very weak libretto. The courts of Charlemagne and the Moor Boland mingle and there are a series of unconvincing love affairs between characters on both sides. It’s all fairly monotonous and lacking in arias, but there are some good choral passages and ensembles over the three acts.

There have not been many opportunities to see the opera in recent years, with the exception of the 2014 Salzburg Festival where this Peter Stein production was first put on. The staging remains close to the libretto – in fact, the plot does not really allow for updating. The sets consist of a series of painted paper backdrops, which are easy to move and to which props are added. The costumes, based on clothing of the Middle Ages, are also dull, with colours ranging from white to black and passing through a range of greys. It is all pretty lifeless, and little direction was given to either the soloists or the crowds. A serious drawback is that it requires two intermissions, which serve to prolong the performance considerably.

Monotony prevails in the score too. It is not an easy opera to conduct, but Daniel Harding led with a firm and sure hand. The orchestra did well, and the chorus gave an especially good performance.

Fierrabras was sung by Swiss tenor Bernard Richter, who has an attractive, well-handled voice and is also a good actor. As at the Salzburg premiere, soprano Dorothea Röschmann was Florinda. For my taste, she was the best singer in the cast, expressive and with an appealing voice.

The part of Roland was played by baritone Markus Werba, who was perfectly correct in the part, and the same can be said of tenor Peter Sonn in the role of Eginhard.

Soprano Anett Fritsch gave life to Emma, ​​the daughter of Charlemagne, and she did well, although she was too tight in the high notes. Bass baritone Sebastian Pilgrim was a somewhat modest Charlemagne, while baritone Lauri Vasar was well-suited to the part of Boland, the Moorish leader.

José M. Irurzun

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Surrey’s Grange Park Opera in 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Highgate International Chamber Music Festival’s Beethoven 249 in November __________________________________
  • NEW! The Leeds Lieder Concert Series 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anjali Dance Company Genius UK Tour 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera in 2019-2020 and New Artistic Director __________________________________
  • UPDATED! ENB in 2019-2020 and Opening of their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall 2019-2020 Season Highlights __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet’s 70th Anniversary Gala Performances – 17 & 18 January 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Martin Yates and RSNO to give world premiere of The Future by Ralph Vaughan Williams __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • NEW! Abay Kazakh State Opera and Ballet Theatre at the London Coliseum on 17 November __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NOW REVIEWED! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • NEW! CELLIST JOHANNES MOSER IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month