We’re going to start the evening with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, The Magic Flute. This opera was premiered in September of 1791, using a libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, who also was the original Papageno. Mozart had been involved with Schikaneder’s theatrical troupe since 1789, and constructed the opera so that it could be sung by both virtuosos and ordinary comic actors, with the notable exception being the Queen of the Night role, which was originated by Mozart’s sister in law Josepha Hofer and is noted for its difficulty, which includes a rare high F6 in the aria Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen. The opera is infused throughout with a number of Masonic elements, which should not be surprising as Schikaneder and Mozart were both in the same Masonic lodge. It was an immediate success, and had already been performed 100 times by November of 1792.
Tonight’s recording is a 1964 edition that is considered among the best available recordings of the piece. The great German tenor Fritz Wunderlich (in 1964 a star on the ascendency, before he was killed after falling down a flight of stairs, only 36 years old) stars as Tamino, along with Evelyn Lear (Pamina), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Papageno), Roberta Peters (Queen), Franz Crass (Sarastro), Lisa Otto (Papagena). James King and Martti Talvela have small parts. Karl Böhm directs the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Our next work is a piece by Louis Spohr. We don’t hear much about Louis Spohr now, but in his day he was a highly regarded composer, musician, author and conductor, and his work, along with that of composers such as Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Schumann helped mark the turning point between Classicism and Romanticism. There are some other areas that you might not have expected in which his work impacts the larger scope of music history – he invented the violin chin-rest and the orchestral rehearsal mark, and he was among the first conductors to use a baton.
Tonight’s opera is Faust, an opera Spohr wrote in 1813, using a libretto by Josef Karl Bernard that was not based on Goethe’s Faust, but rather on other Faustian plays and poems. The opera was premiered in 1816, with Carl Maria von Weber conducting. Spohr first wrote it as a Singspiel, but revised it in 1851 and turned it into a grand opera in three acts. This is the form that we hear tonight. The Bielefeld Opera revived the opera in 1993, and it is their recording that we will be hearing. Michael Vier, Eelco von Jordis, Diane Jennings, and Claudia Taha lead the cast. The Bielefeld Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir are directed by Geoffrey Moull.
The official playlist can be found here.