Entertainment

Der Vampyr

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Friday Jan 3, 2014
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The works of composer Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861) have been, for the most part, neglected during the 20th and 21st centuries, but this re-release from Capriccio Records deserved listening. This 1999 recording of "Der Vampyr" was originally released in 2001, but is now, once again, available for us to become reacquainted with Marschner’s opera. This tragic tale of the vampire, Lord Ruthven, was written in 1828, with a libretto by the composer’s brother-in-law, Wilhelm Wohlbrück, and proved to be a marginal success due to its topic, albeit not the composer’s most noted work (that would be "Hans Heiling" in 1832). Vampires were an unusual subject for opera and, with Bram Stoker’s book still 70 years away from being written, Marschner’s German Romantic piece provides a suspenseful experience, sprinkled with a generous helping of joyous choruses and comedic drinking songs.

The story centers around Lord Ruthven, sung with desperation and determination by baritone Franz Hawlata, who must find three victims in order to continue his existence on Earth, and avoid eternity in Hell. After being innocently rescued from damnation by Edgar Aubry (Jonas Kaufmann), Ruthven, in disguise as the Earl of Marsden, pursues to marry Malwina (soprano Regina Klepper), who is in love with Aubry. Aubry, however, cannot reveal the truth about Ruthven without becoming damned himself. Without providing spoilers, suffice it to say that all get what they deserve in the end.

This production of "Der Vampyr" provides well-performed arias, including Malwina’s expression of love for Aubry ("Heiter lacht die golden Frühlingssonne" / "Cheerfully the golden spring sun smiles"), one for one the vampire’s victims, Emmy Perth (soprano Anke Hoffmann), when she is having impending thoughts of doom about her missing fiancé ("Dort an jenem Felsenhang" / "Over there on that cliff") and a "Great Scene," ("Grosse Szene") between Aubry and the vampire, which includes a powerful song where Ruthven details life in hell.

The packaging is meant to be alluring, with a tattooed woman looking seductively forward, and having the entire score in a single-disc jewel box is convenient, but the release does not include a libretto (either in English OR German), and that detracts from the opera’s listening experience.

"Der Vampyr"
Heinrich August Marschner
CD and digital formats
Capriccio Records

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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