Saturday 10 March 2012

Meyerbeer and Heinrich Heine

Is 19th century French opera having a renaissance? Certainly seems so with so many new performances of Berlioz, Massenet and others  We're now so used to heavier Italanate singing that maybe it's a good time to hear different kinds of voices and open out the repertoire. I've been listening to Giacomo Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable.(1831). Someone once told me it's a mad mix of Don Giovanni and Faust, but I'm not so sure.  It's pretty crazy and a great vehicle for singers - soprano, high lyric tenor and low baritone. Thus most people know the opera through star arias. But once Robert Le Diable was a wild sensation to which le tout Paris flocked. The picture shows a performance in Paris in 1850, by which time the opera was a well established favourite. Wagner saw it, and Heinrich Heine, who wrote this poem. It was set by Wilhelm Killmayer and has been recorded by Christoph Prégardien. The poet is a man about town, intent on seducing a racy lady. They have an assignation in a private dining room (the 19th century equivalent of love motels - think Der Rosenkavalier, where Octavian cons Baron Ochs)

Komm morgen zwischen zwei und drei,
Dann sollen neue Flammen
Bewähren meine Schwärmerei;
Wir essen nachher zusammen.

Wenn ich Billette bekommen kann,
Bin ich sogar kapabel,
Dich in die Oper zu führen alsdann:
Man gibt Robert-le-Diable.

Es ist ein großes Zauberstück
Voll Teufelslust und Liebe;
Von Meyerbeer ist die Musik,
Der schlechte Text von Scribe.

"Come tomorrow between 2 and 3. Then shall new flames prove my passion. We'll dine together afterwards. If I can get tickets (and I'm a crafty lad). I'll take you to the opera. They're doing Robert le Diable. It's a great bit of magic, full of devilry and love. From Meyerbeer the music. Crap text by Scribe"

And here is a taster ! More soon

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