Friday, October 19, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Kaufmann, Strehl, & Banse in Fierrabras

Eginhard, King Karl, Fierrabras,
Schubert, and Roland
The passion isn't very passionate, the drama isn't very dramatic, and the conflicts aren't very conflicted. Sadly, this opera doesn't have much going for it beyond the typically lovely song stylings of Schubert. And the music is indeed quite lovely.
Director Claus Guth addresses this lack of dramatic interest by inserting the composer into the action. It seems Schubert is still writing this opera as it's being performed, and in doing so, he is working out some of his own issues with his father. Note that four of the male characters (Eginhard, Roland, Fierrabras, and Brutamonte) are dressed just like Schubert  in case you weren't confused already.
In this scene, Fierrabras catches Emma and Eginhard meeting secretly in the garden. And he recognizes Emma as that girl he fell in love with back in his homeland (there was some reference to that meeting in his duet with Boland  or was it Roland?). Many, if not most guys would do away with their rival. For some reason (that even Fierrabras doesn't understand), he decides to help them out and cover for them so Emma's dad won't get mad. I guess he did it because Schubert told him to.

If the drama is stilted, go with it. Make it more stilted!

Julianne Banse has a lovely voice, though maybe a little darker than one might wish for in this ingenue role. And she is saddled with an insane hairdo; but I suppose that doesn't have much to do with her singing.
I admire Christoph Strehl's light lyric tenor. He is an effective Belmonte and Don Ottavio, an amusing Belfiori in La Finta Giardiniera, and does a fine job as David in the Zurich Meistersinger.  And Jonas Kaufmann is, well, Jonas Kaufmann; what else needs to be said? 
I am a sucker for anything that involves two (or more) tenors, and in this trio, Herr Strehl's light lyric voice contrasts nicely with Herr Kaufmann's warm dark baritenor. 

Other Fierrabras posts:


  1. I admit that I bought this because of Kaufmann--absurd since he has only one aria. I love Schubert lieder--another rationalization--but it is easy to see/hear why this opera is never going to enjoy a wide revival. I'm not a completist as regards Kaufmann (no interest in the Tito given the reworking of the recits) and I can't conceive of buying the ROH Tosca since I already have the one from Zurich (plus the old Kabaivanska and she is marvelous) so I was hoping for a collection of arias/songs that were as engaging as many of the great songs. I still remain unconvinced, but perhaps repeated viewings/listenings will awake a spark, but to date...............

  2. Like you, David, I picked this up for Herr Kaufmann, not realizing that the role of Fierrabras had little to do in the opera known as Fierrabras. I did however have my first encounters with Michael Volle, Christoph Strehl, and Franz Welser-Möst, for which I am grateful.

    Skipping that Tito is a good idea, since the music is not really suited to Herr Kauffman, Eva Mei is an annoying Vitellia, and Frau Kasarova is better in the Salzburg video. The Amazing Malin Hartelius is the Servilla, but honestly, no one ever goes to, or buys a Tito for the Servilla!

    There are some pretty melodies, but Fierrabras will never have a place in the standard opera repertoire. I'd think it might be more likely to have performances by choral groups as an oratorio. At least in this DVD, Claus Guth has given us a few odd/interesting things to look at and ponder.

    My favorite bit (I need to post it soon) is the finale, when Schubert is handing out music to everyone EXCEPT Fierrabras, and the interplay between the two of them.


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