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Friday, January 14, 2022

Emil von Reznicek - Ritter Blaubart (Michail Jurowski)


Information

Composer: Emil von Reznicek
  • Ritter Blaubart, Fairy-Tale Opera in Three Acts

David Pittman-Jennings; Arutjun Kotchinian; Robert Wörle
Celina Lindsley; Andion Fernandez; Victor Sawaley
Carsten Sabrowski; Johannes Schmidt; Peter Maus

Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Michail Jurowski, conductor

Date: 2003
Label: cpo


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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 9 / SOUND QUALITY: 10

Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek (1860-1945) is known today almost exclusively as the composer of the overture to Donna Diana, which occasionally is used as a concert curtain-raiser. On the evidence of this opera, we are missing out on some remarkable music. Reznicek will remind listeners of Schreker and/or Strauss and/or Wagner, but his sense of drama and concision is unique to him. Almost 30 minutes of this 130-minute opera consists of purely orchestral interludes, which in addition to allowing scene changes, keep the mood of the piece alive–besides being handsome, richly orchestrated pieces in their own right. The whole is dark-hued and driven, and I mean this last word in the most complimentary way.

This opera, on the familiar Bluebeard-kills-his-wives theme, was premiered in Darmstadt in 1920. Bluebeard is clearly insane from the start, babbling–at times incoherently–about nature, the sun, the “black, miry” pond on his property into which he tossed his first (unfaithful) wife, and death (“Every knife reveals the riddle of blood”; “Long live our corpses!”). At the start he marries a young girl named Judith, son of Nikolaus and sister of Werner, none of whom seem to notice that he’s nuts–and this, despite his telling the two men not only about the murder of his first wife, but that “My mother pampered me and my father whipped me and together they ruined me for life.”

Back at his gloomy castle he and Judith enjoy life until he announces that he must go away, leaving her with his blind servant, Josua, and a key to a room she must not enter–the room that houses the heads of his first five wives (to whom he speaks and plays the violin in Act 1). Of course she disobeys, and when he returns and sees the key, which is stained with ineradicable blood, he kills her like the others. At her funeral, Bluebeard seduces her sister Agnes, and she joins him at his castle. Josua, clearly tired of all this morbidity, sets fire to the castle to head the inevitable murder off at the pass–but this prompts our looney hero to tell Agnes what he did to Judith, upon which she throws herself into a ravine while he is left to incinerate. The musical tension never flags, the vocal lines, while not attractive in themselves, are expressive and impressive (and difficult), and if Reznicek were more interested in melody this would be a hands-down masterpiece. The only flaw is a lack of tunes; onstage this must be simply grand.

Mikhail Jurowski turns this into a forwardly propelled, exciting ride, and his orchestra rips into the lush score with fire and plays beautifully. The singing is splendid, with David Pittman-Jennings in the title role turning in a performance that is almost visible. Bluebeard rants and hollers and is so filled with horror that it’s amazing Pittman-Jennings doesn’t turn the role into caricature; indeed, we believe him and can only admire the stamina in his Wagnerian-sized and -toned baritone.

Celina Lindsley as Judith and Andion Fernandez as Agnes should have exchanged roles; more tenderness is needed in the former than Lindsley can muster, but she’s into the part and, I guess, Fernandez’s vulnerability makes her situation all the more pathetic. Victor Sawaley’s tenor is expressive as Josua, and his big “fire” aria–arguably the only set-piece in the opera–is suitably manic. The others are equally colorful and real, and in their five-minute scene the two graverobbers (who notice that Judith’s body is missing a head) are almost comic relief. The sound is as big and real as the performance. This is a terrific surprise.

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday


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Emil von Reznicek (4 May 1860, in Vienna – 2 August 1945, in Berlin) was an Austrian composer of Romanian-Czech ancestry. Reznicek studied music with Wilhelm Mayer, Carl Reinecke and Salomon Jadassohn, and was a friend of Richard Strauss, but his greatest influence was Gustav Mahler. Reznicek's break-through as a composer came with the opera Donna Diana in 1894. By the late 1920s he was respected as one of the most important German composers, but his fame was soon to be surpassed by the modern music of younger composers. Today, Reznicek is mainly remembered for his Donna Diana overture.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emil_von_Reznicek

***

Michail Jurowski (born 25 December 1945 in Moscow) is a Russian conductor. He is the son of Soviet composer Vladimir Jurowski (1915-1972), and the father of Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski (b. 1972). Jurowski studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Lev Ginzburg and Alexey Kandinsky, and also worked as assistant to Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Jurowski was music director and principal conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie (1992-1998), the Leipzig Opera (1999-2001), and the WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln (2006-2008). He is currently principal guest conductor of the Sinfonia Iuventus in Warsaw.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michail_Jurowski
https://imgartists.com/roster/michail-jurowski/

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