Engelbert HUMPERDINCK (1854 – 1921)
Dornröschen (1902)
Brigitte Fassbaender (spoken role) – Dämonia; Christina Landshamer (soprano) – Rosa; Kristiane Kaiser (soprano) – Röschen; Stephanie Hampl (alto) – Morphina; Tobias Haaks (tenor) – Reinhold; Anna Borchers (soprano) – Quecksilber / Eine Winde; Miriam Clark (soprano) – Die Sonne; Brigitte Bayer (soprano) – Ein Vergissmeinnicht; Guibee Yang (soprano) – Eine Rose; Wolfgang Klose (bass) – Vogt des Ahnenschlosses; Jerzy May (spoken ole) – Ringold/Mond; Barbara Malisch (spoken role) – Armgart
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Ulf Schirmer
rec. live, Prinzregententheater, Munich, 14 December 2008
libretto with English translation enclosed
CPO 777 510-2 [40:06 + 50:03]

To most general music-listeners Engelbert Humperdinck is synonymous with Hänsel und Gretel. In fact, he wrote a number of other stage works of which Königskinder, at least occasionally, has an outing. It was played five times in Zurich in February last year (2010).

Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty), based on Perrault and the Brothers Grimm but with some added ingredients, isn’t strictly speaking an opera. ‘Fairytale in a prelude and three acts’ it is labelled and it consists of a fair amount of spoken dialogue interspersed with musical numbers, many of them very brief, even fragmentary. The weakest point is the libretto and Humperdinck allegedly wasn’t very keen on setting it but finally succumbed.

There are several quite substantial orchestral pieces and Humperdinck put together an orchestral suite of some of them, even before the premiere of the ‘opera’. He was a splendid orchestrator and melodist –influenced by Wagner, but less so here than in Hänsel und Gretel. The overture with a beautiful horn solo is a catchy piece, almost seven minutes long. There is also a ballad that opens the second act and a very good Irrfahrten. The chorus also have grateful music to execute, for instance the melodious Versuchung (CD 2 tr. 21). As in Hänsel und Gretel there are many references to folk-songs, not least Dornröschens Bild (CD 2 tr. 6) in ¾-time. There is enough attractive music throughout to enjoy this work without bothering very much about the plot. A problem arises here for non-German speakers, since the libretto in the booklet only prints the sung texts but not the spoken dialogue. With some knowledge of German and the synopsis at hand one can still get the gist of the story and the diction of the speaking roles is very clear. In particular Brigitte Fassbaender as Dämonia, the evil fairy, is just as articulate and expressive as we remember her from her singing career. She radiates evil in every phrase.

Ulf Schirmer, who has recorded several operatic rarities for CPO, has obviously taken this music to his heart and his Munich forces assist him admirably. Apart from a rather shaky contralto as Morphina the solo singing is excellent. Kristiane Kaiser as Röschen has a crystal-clear, very beautiful soprano and Tobias Haaks sings well as Reinhold. The live recording is splendid.

Hänsel und Gretel is a much better work but the music in Dornröschen is mostly fresh and melodious and well worth hearing, even though the story in itself is only mildly interesting.

Göran Forsling

This live recording is splendid and the music is mostly fresh and melodious and well worth hearing.