Cher Public

Tomb service

As I was reveling in the cool beauty of Anne Schwanewilms’s soprano during her rapturously received Strauss/Wolf recital at Alice Tully Hall on Easter Sunday, I remembered that I had an outstanding performance of Weber’s Euryanthe to share on “Trove Thursday.” As the beleaguered heroine Schwanewilms grandly holds her own against the conniving of Lauren Flanigan’s flamboyant Eglantine. 

Best known today for its ebullient overture, Euryanthe premiered in 1823 and bears some striking similarities to Wagner’s Lohengrin which followed twenty-five years later—a blameless soprano and tenor must withstand the jealous scheming of a second soprano and baritone. I have long admired the opera since first hearing the Marek Janowski recording with Jessye Norman, Rita Hunter, Nicolai Gedda and Tom Krause.

Today’s broadcast comes from a concert given at the BBC Proms in London following a run at the Glyndebourne Festival. One of the most enticing features of this performance is the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, an outstanding period-instrument group.

I first heard Schwanewilms in 2002 as a striking Senta in Harry Kupfer’s mesmerizing production of Wagner’s Der Fliegende Hollãnder at the Berlin Staatsoper. It was around that time (the same year as Euryanthe) that she decided to revamp her repertoire and drop some roles to concentrate primarily on operas by Richard Strauss. In doing so, she canceled a number of important contracts (many for Leonore in Fidelio) which I understand earned her the enmity of several opera houses including the Met.

While still singing Elsa and Elisabeth, she did indeed become a prominent Arabella, Danae, Chrysothemis and, most memorably, the Marschallin. Her Kaiserin in Die Frau ohne Schatten can be seen on DVD in Christof Loy’s somewhat perverse Salzburg production conducted by Christian Thielemann.

That role of course served as her belated Met debut in 2013 when she was over-shadowed (!) by the more newsworthy resurgence of Christine Goerke as the Färberin. At the performance I attended Schwanewilms was at first unusually reticent but eventually blazed compellingly in a galvanizing third act.

Shall we ever see her again at the Met? I, for one, would gladly welcome her back as Marie-Thérèse in a revival of the new Rosenkavalier. In the meantime, at age 50 she might seem surprising casting as Eva this summer at the Bayreuth Festival in Barrie Kosky’s new Meistersinger to be courted by the inevitable Klaus Florian Vogt.

Despite an excellent revival of Euryanthe three years ago at Bard Summerscape, Weber’s three great operas remain ignored by major companies in the US. However, this fall La Scala mounts a new production of Der Freischütz featuring the tantalizing prospect of Günther Groissböck’s Kaspar.

A most interesting revival occurs next month at the Bavarian State Opera when Ivor Bolton conducts a new staging of the magical Oberon (in German, of course) with Annette Dasch as Rezia opposite the Huon of an American tenor I know absolutely nothing about—Brenden Gunnell. Happily, it will be web-streamed free on 30 July.

Weber: Euryanthe
Glyndebourne Festival at Proms
12 August 2002

Euryanthe: Anne Schwanewilms
Eglantine: Lauren Flanigan
Bertha: Rebecca von Lipinski
Adolar : John Daszak
Lysiart : Pavlo Hunka
Ludwig VI: Clive Bayley
Rudolf: Nicholas Sharratt

Glyndebourne Chorus
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Conductor: Mark Elder

To download Euryanthe, just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

In addition to this week’s Weber, last week’s Vickers-Shuard-Popp-Verrett-Glossip Ballo, more than 70 other “Trove Thursday” podcasts are available from iTunes (for free!) or via any RSS reader.

  • Bill

    Schwanewilms also did Euryanthe in Dresden I believe. Her
    New York recital was exquisitely sung a few months ago.
    her voice is ideal for Weber --
    Vienna also has a new production of Freischuetz planned for next Spring (Grossboeck was originally scheduled for Kaspar but there was a scheduling conflict for rehearsals when he was scheduled to be in Paris and he is out of the cast) and Budapest had a new production a couple of years ago which was well sung. Freischuetz does crop up regularly in some of the smaller German
    Opera Houses. We, at the Met, had it I think only one season several decades ago with Pilar Lorengar. It never returned and San Francisco had it scheduled once but had to cut out several
    operas due to budget restraints and Freischuetz was not mounted.
    All of Weber’s operas have glorious music (I even saw once
    Drei Pintos as reworked by Mahler at the Volksoper) but most of the stories are weak (Oberon particularly). Freischuetz is not so
    difficult to cast but an effective conductor is required -- one only needs a wonderful Agathe with a pure line, a good soubrette, a
    fine deep dark bass and a spinto type tenor -- the other roles are not large -- and, oh yes, a great chorus. The story of Euryanthe kind of precedes that of Lohengrin a bit. Mostly from these operas we hear the overtures in concert often as starters to the concerts.

    • We used to hear them as concert overtures, only these days you’re hardly ever offered one.

  • southerndoc1

    Thank you, Mr. Corwin. Love the Weber operas, and Euryanthe has the most glorious music of all.

    Tovey nails the discrepancy between the music by Weber and the libretto by “das Chez:”

    “Euryanthe is both a more mature work of art and a more advanced development of Wagnerian music-drama than Lohengrin, though it is a generation earlier . . . the trouble comes when a great composer like Weber discovers too late that he is devoting the magnificent common sense of his highest structural power to a drama in which the emotion and contrasts are associated with events as crazy as the logic of dreams. It is not injured innocence, nor any lofty scruple, nor tragic ignorance, that prevents her (Euryanthe) from saying the very first thing a rational being would naturally say when first put into her position; it is simply that if she said it the whole story would collapse, and all poor old Chez’s verses and all her puppets could not put it together again . . . Among the most troublesome features of the whole affair are the ghosts of Emma and Udo, who never appear, but who have to bring about the family prophecies, whether the public can follow the rigamarole or not. Well, anyhow, long ago they committed suicide; and Euryanthe, who had to live in a garden adjoining Adolar’s family vault, told the dread secret to Eglantine, who told Lysiart, who told Adolar, who saw at once that this proved that Lysiart had won his wager against Euryanthe’s truth . . . such then is the stuff to which Weber devoted the greatest of all his works.”

  • Camille

    Another Jewell!!!!

    A perfect kind of voice for this much defamed and merde-enncrusted work which is so utterly splendid and deserves so to be heard! Clunky libretto be damned and Regie to the Rescue!!! Particularly for junior league Wagnerians with intent to hear Lohengrin I cannot abide the hours until the webstream from München, with or without the greatest of Euryanthes.

    There are another couple recordings of this work should anyone be interested: an aircheck of Sutherland as conducted by Fritz Stiedry from the mid-fifties and another aircheck, I believe, from 1949 or ’50 with the absolute greatest and most Heilige Maria Reining in the TitelRolle--one of the most beautiful, pure, exquisite, perfect--you apply your own adjective-- pieces of singing ever heard. One puts up with the so-so sound for the privilege of die Reinige Reining.

    For now, I am so pleased to hear Frau Schwanewilms, an artist of intelligence, precision, great instincts, and considerable stage presence. I was only sorry her recital came on a spring day this past year, as it was such an autumnal, morose, pensive, Tot-contemplative array of songs, however well rendered as they were.

    This will be a picnic to keep me until the webcast!!
    Muchísimas spasibo!