Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Konwitschny conducts the Overture to Die Feen

As everyone must know by now, Wagner will be 200 tomorrow. I posted a few thoughts a couple of days ago concerning his continuing, inescapable impotance from a standpoint of composition and stage direction. Most of my 2013 Wagner experiences have yet to come, but so far I have no doubt as to that which has made the greatest impression on me: Oper Leipzig's tremendous advocacy for Die Feen. I urge anyone for whom it might be the slightest possibility to consider a visit. It is by any standards a wonderful opera, both in its own right and on account of the uncanny presentiments it offers not only for every single one of Wagner's subsequent stage works, but also for works such as Gurrelieder and Die Frau ohne Schatten. Moreover, it benefits both from an intelligent production and fine musical performances. (The only case in which the Chelsea Opera Group's concert performance a little over a month earlier was preferable was Elisabeth Meister's stunning Lora, though it also had a good cast overall.) If any operatic staging this year, other than Stefan Herheim's forthcoming Salzburg Meistersinger - and I think I can say this before having seen a minute of it - demands wider circulation on DVD, it must be this. In the meantime, the late Wolfgang Sawallisch's recording, from the 1983 Munich season in which he, at the Bavarian State Opera, conducted all of Wagner's dramas, remains the only truly recommenable recorded performance; I provide a link below. Here, howver, is a taste of the twenty-year-old composer's first completed opera, its Overture performed by the same orchestra in 1952, conducted by Franz Konwitschny (yes, father of Peter), who imparts just the right balance between roots in Weber, Marschner, and others (Beethoven and Mozart being more evident elsewhere in the score), and a forward-looking dramatic imperative which belongs unmistakeably to Leipzig's greatest son: