University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Reichardt: Die Geisterinsel

09/29/2019 1:00 pm
09/29/2019 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

If you like Mozart's "Magic Flute" I feel sure you will also like this Singspiel by one of Mozart's slightly older contemporaries, Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752-1814). Within the German speaking culture of Central Europe at the end of the eighteenth century there was a sub-genre of opera devoted to fantasy, legend, exotic settings, magic and the supernatural. This genre continued into the early nineteenth century with Romantic works like Weber's Der Freischutz. This particular Singspiel, first produced in Berlin in 1798, was Reichardt's most successful lyric stagework. It was commissioned for celebrations in honor of the new king of Prussia, Frederick Wilhelm III.

Die Geisterinsel (“The Isle of Spirits”) is a German language adaptation of Shakespeare's fantastical drama The Tempest. Goethe saw and heard the Singspiel and pronounced it "a masterpiece of poetry and language: it is impossible to imagine anything more musical.” What is presumably the world premiere recording of Reichardt's Die Geisterinsel was released in 2017 through the German CPO record label. It presents on two compact discs a studio production for broadcast over West German Radio of Cologne, this production actually recorded not in Cologne but neighboring Wuppertal in 2002 in the opera house there, and apparently not before a theater audience. Hermann Max directs the period instrument ensemble Das Kleine Konzert, augmented by the chorus of the Rheinische Kantorei, with a singing cast of nine solo voices. About this CPO release reviewer Bill White wrote, "This opera will in all probability never receive a more congenial hearing, as the singing and music-making on these discs is quite outstanding.” (Fanfare, Nov/Dec 2018 issue.)