University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Meyerbeer: Le Proph├Ęte

04/14/2024 1:00 pm
04/14/2024 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

The lyric stageworks of Giacomo or Jakob Meyerbeer (1791-1864) have long been out of favor. Critics have continually sneered at his music. He's been damned as generally mediocre. Actually, he was the most important composer of opera in the grand manner in his era, the earlier half of the Romantic. Meyerbeer wrote for the grandest lyric stage in all of Europe: the Paris Opera. The best of Meyerbeer's French grand operas is Le Prophète (1849).

The young Richard Wagner sought to write musical stageworks of this scale and calibre. "The Prophet" is a very well put together lyric drama with book by one of the most prolific of French 19th century playwrights, Eugène Scribe (also a figure who was condemned in a later time as mediocre). A top-flight singing cast took part in what I had presumed was a world premiere complete recording of Le Prophète taped in 1976 and released through Columbia Masterworks, with Henry Lewis conducting the Royal Philharmonic and Ambrosian Chorus. That LP recording went over the air way back on Sunday, April 10, 1988.

I have recently come across another, earlier recording of Le Prophète with Lewis conducting the symphony orchestra and chorus of RAI, Radio Italy, Turin in 1970. The aircheck tapes of the broadcast studio recording were issued on Myto compact discs in 1999. The stereo sound heard on the Myto CD transfer is quite good for its era a half century and more ago. Tenor Nicolai Gedda stars as Jean of Leyden, the ill-counseled spiritual liberator of the German city of Munster, with mezzo Marilyn Horne in the role of his mother Fides. (Horne sang the same role again in the 1976 recording.) I note in my record keeping of lyric theater broadcasts that I have broadcast a recording of an opera based on the same historical theme as Le Prophète: Azio Corghi's Divara: Wasser und Blut (1993), composed in commemoration of the 1200th anniversary of the founding of Munster. That Marco Polo CD recording went over the air on Sunday, June 18, 1995. The Myto CD release of Le Prophète was favorably reviewed by the veritable opera expert George Jellinek (Fanfare, Jan/Feb 2000).