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Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826) - completed by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
Die drei Pintos, (The Three Pintos) - comic opera in three acts
First presented on 20 January 1888, Leipzig.
Don Pantaleone, a nobleman from Madrid, Robert Holzer (bass); Don Gomez, a nobleman from Madrid, Peter Furlong (ten); Clarissa, Don Pantaleone's daughter, Barbara Zechmeister (sop); Laura, Clarissa's maid, Sophie Marilley (mezzo); Don Gaston Viratos, Former student from Salamanca, Eric Shaw (ten); Don Pinto, a country nobleman from Castrilla, Alessandro Svab (bass); Innkeeper, Stewart Kempster (bass); Inez, the Innkeeper's daughter, Sinead Campbell (sop); Ambrosio, Don Gaston's valet, Ales Jenis (bar)
Wexford Festival Opera Chorus
National Philharmonic Orchestra of Belarus/Paolo Arrivabeni
Live recording of the 2003 Wexford Festival Opera production
Recorded at the Theatre Royal, Wexford, Ireland, on 22, 25, 28, 31 October 2003
NAXOS 8.660142-43 [39.07+75.15]

The Wexford Festival was founded in 1951. It aims to present three rarely performed operas each year. The performances are spread over eighteen days and draw audiences from all over the world. Notable names such as Mirella Freni and Ugo Benelli appeared at Wexford in their early careers, gaining much valuable experience and exposure.

On completion of his opera Der Freischütz in the summer of 1820 Weber decided on a comic opera, Die drei Pintos, to a libretto written by Theodor Hell. He worked on the score during 1821 but complications over dedicating it to the King caused him to put the work aside. He never completed it. His plan was for the opera to consist of an overture and sixteen numbers. When Weber stopped work there were only sketches for seven items. Weber’s widow passed the sketches to Meyerbeer for him to complete the work. He did nothing with them for twenty years before declaring the task to be impossible. In 1886 the young Gustav Mahler, then aged 26 and with none of his compositions published, undertook the task. He found that the sketches needed not only orchestration but to be figured and harmonized as well. Mahler filled out extra material from Weber’s other music. In an erudite sleeve-note, Michael Kennedy gives the final scenario with indications of which ‘extra’ numbers were chosen.

The implausible plot concerns the substitution, twice, of Don Pinto on his way to Seville to marry Clarissa who is in love with Gomez. Needless to say the second substitution makes Gomez the third Pinto and he marries Clarissa. Eventually the real Pinto turns up and Clarissa’s father is furious, but all ends happily. A happy outcome cannot be posed for this recording. The best live recordings come about when audiences stifle their coughs and limit their applause to the ends of scenes or acts. With recordings of live opera performances there are the further complications of off-microphone singing and the noise of stage movement, the latter being beyond the control of the recording engineer. In a comic opera there is likely to be much coming and going and audience laughter if the performance is going well. It does go well here, but I have to admit to finding so much extraneous noise seriously limiting enjoyment and appreciation. Consequently I cannot seriously recommend this recording to those interested in Weber’s intentions or Mahler’s realisation. I do realise that when such recordings are envisaged, the recording company does not know how the production will pan out and they take a gamble. Those interested in the opera should pursue the early 1970s RCA recording with Lucia Popp, Werner Hollweg and Hermann Prey. The only people likely to enjoy this recording are those who were present at the Wexford performances and who want a memento of the occasion.

Robert J Farr

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