Academic journal article Notes

Aribert Reimann

Academic journal article Notes

Aribert Reimann

Article excerpt

Aribert Reimann. Lear. DVD. Simone Young / Philharmoniker Hamburg and Chorus of Staatsoper Hamburg. With Bo Skovhus, Katja Pieweck, Hellen Kwon, Siobhan Stagg, Andrew Watts. Halle/Saale, Germany: ArtHaus Musik, 2015. 109063. $29.99.

Aulis Sallinen. King Lear. DVD. Okko Kamu / Orchestra and Chorus of Finnish National Opera. With Matti Salminen, Taina Piira, Satu Vihavainen, Lilli Paasikivi, Jorma Hynninen. Helsinki: Ondine, 2015. ODV4010. $29.99.

Of all the operas which never moved beyond the planning stage, Giuseppe Verdi's King Lear will probably head anyone's list as our greatest loss. Except for a forgotten work performed in 1937 by an obscure Italian composer with close ties to the Fascist party, no one seems to have taken on Shakespeare's monumental tragedy until the last quarter of the 20th century, when two composers of international reputation took it on--Aribert Reimann in 1978, and Aulis Sallinen in 2000.

Reimann's Lear was written for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and first performed in Munich. Since that time it has received approximately thirty productions around the world, possibly unique for a post-World War II opera. The reason, however, is clear: Reimann's score shows a dramatic sensitivity which is lacking in so many contemporary operas, and the title role is an outstanding vehicle for a star baritone. The dense orchestral textures are chosen carefully for each character and situation. The music rages violently for such "bad" characters as Goneril, Regan, and Edmund, as well as the storm scene, yet the well-intentioned characters Edgar, Cordelia, and Gloucester are given music that is gentle and eloquent. Lear himself fits into both worlds but his final mad scene is as heartbreaking as anything in opera.

The performance presented here was filmed at the Hamburg State Opera in 2014, and features Bo Skovhus in the title role. Skovhus is one of the top singing actors of our time, and he is in full command of the role. The rest of the cast rises to his level musically and frequendy dramatically. Special mention must go to Andrew Watts as Edgar, whose role requires him to move from a traditional lyric tenor up into a vibrant countertenor head voice, a shift that he handles admirably. Siobhan Stagg is a moving Cordelia, and the other sisters are suitably nasty in their more dramatic soprano music. …

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