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Carl Maria von WEBER ( 1786-1826 )
Oberon, Opera in Three Acts
Clémens Kerschbaumer, Oberon (tenor)
Mirko Roschkowski, Hüon von Bordeaux (tenor)
Dorothea Maria Marx, Rezia (soprano)
Grga Peroš, Scherasmin (baritone)
Marie Seidler, Fatime (mezzo-soprano)
Dmitry Egorov, Puck (countertenor)
Roman Kurtz (narrator)
Chor des Stadttheaters Giessen
Philharmonisches Orchester Giessen/Michael Hofstetter
rec. live December 2016 and January 2017, Stadttheater Giessen , Germany
OEHMS CLASSIC OC984 [2 CDs: 111:41]

Weber’s romantic sound world combined with the excitement of the orient is – musically at least – a masterpiece. James Robinson Planché’s libretto, however, is much weaker and often proves stage adaptation a difficult venture. When composing this opera in London whilst suffering from tuberculosis, Weber knew that this was likely to be his last work, so he took great pains to make the very best of the libretto.

The plot is quite straight forward: Oberon and Titania have a row and are determined not to settle their dispute on fidelity until they see a human couple exert true fidelity. Therefore, they send Puck to ally all spirits against the caliph’s daughter Rezia and her lover the knight Hüon de Bordeaux. With Abu Hassan, Weber was already experienced in adding an oriental touch to his music, something which he executed perfectly in the score for his Oberon. The magic horn and its enchanting leitmotif indeed help make it a work of art. When listening to Oberon (and indeed other of Weber’s works), it does not take wonder that Weber anticipates Mendelssohn’s fairy music. Mendelssohn’s overture to the Midsummer Night’s Dream indeed quotes Weber’s descending theme from the finale of Act II.

Weber conducted the première in London on 12th April 1826 to great acclaim, but died there less than two months later, not being able to adapt it for the German stage. This task was left to Karl Gottfried Theodor Winkler alias Theodor Hell, who, albeit succeeding in making the translation very sing-able, let it down a bit in comparison with Weber’s English Oberon due to his freer adaptation of the dialogues. However, Michael Hofstetter and his ensemble have created a venerable recording, with good musical qualities. Hofstetter has so far conducted at many renowned opera houses across the globe and made many première recordings of works by Gluck, Salieri and Cimarosa amongst others, and has several times been nominated as conductor of the year. Since 2012, he is conductor of the Philharmonisches Orchester Giessen, which was founded in 1933, and has left his mark already. The Opernchor des Stadttheaters Giessen has been directed by Jan Hoffman for the last twenty years and it is this continuity that shows itself in the reliable and precise rendering of the choir parts.

The part of Oberon is sung by tenor Clemens Kerschbaumer, who became member of the Giessen ensemble in 2016, having performed in Salzburg and the Scala in Milan. His rendering does Oberon justice, but does not entirely succeed in evoking the fairy king’s mysterious aura. The part of Hüon asks for a kind of heldentenor, which Mirko Roschkowski, who has ample experience in the opera, lied and oratorio repertoire, does – despite his good voice – unfortunately not quite live up to. As member of the ensemble at Linz and Hanover, the soprano Dorothea Maria Marx’s rendering of Rezia is spot on and she convinces especially in Traure, mein Herz. Dmitry Egorov (Puck) adds with his fine and witty counter tenor a special fairy charm to the recording. The mezzo-soprano Marie Seidler (Fatime) sings enchantingly, especially in her aria Arabien, mein Heimatland and Grga Peroš (baritone) convinces as Scherasmin.

Roman Kurtz is the narrator and familiar with Shakespeare’s works, but in spite of his good diction, his narration of the plot appears a bit boring. Unfortunately, the whole recording suffers from a slight lack of spirit and energy.

Still, this CD makes a nice addition for everyone who already owns the English Oberon. However, I have to admit that I prefer the English John Eliot Gardiner recording by Decca made in 2002, which is more powerful.

Maximilian Burgdörfer

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