MUSIC BY Carl Maria von Weber, Libretto by Helmina von Chézy                                       With Jacquelyn Wagner, Theresa Kronthaler, Eva Maria Neubauer, Norman Reinhardt, Andrew Foster-Williams, and Stefan Cerny                                                           Orff Vienna Radio Orchestra conducted by Constantin Trinks                                             Stage Director Christof Loy                                                                                                               Live recording from December of 2018 at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, Austria

First came Der Freischuetz, then a couple of years later Euryanthe. You’d think that Carl Maria von Weber would have made some strides as an opera composer. Maybe he would, had he not been saddled with one of the silliest librettos in all of Opera, courtesy of Helmina von Chézy, a poetess who provided all of the ingredients but none of the genius that goes into forging an inspired operatic libretto.

Instead we get a pastiche made tolerable by the occasionally inspired music of Weber. The entire opera runs close to 3 hours, and it would be an easier affair to sit through if a truly spectacular cast had been assembled for this DVD.

Sad to say, the only two singers with the chops to sing von Weber’s often unreasonably difficult music are the fine Jacquelyn Wagner, whose Euryanthe is nice to watch, and even nicer to listen to. Wagner is what in Germany they label “young-dramatic soprano”, that is someone ready to sing all the Strauss and Mozart big girl parts and a bit of Wagner. She has a sizeable, luscious voice that she uses stylishly, and I would like to hear her as Eva or Elisabeth or even Weber’s Agathe.

The other singer to keep an eye open for is mezzo-soprano Theresa Kronthaler, whose Eglantine looks and sounds like an Ortrud in the making, complete with the looks, acting skills and, most important, the voice to meet the demands of this tricky role. Kronthaler delivers a fiercely memorable performance with all vocal and dramatic guns blazing.

The men are reasonably well-cast, but a beefier sound than that of Andrew Foster-Williams would have been most welcome in the role of Lysiart, a bass-baritone part in which a true Wagnerian Heldenbariton could make a difference. The Adolar, tenor Norman Reinhardt sings well and acts with conviction. Stefan Cerny is acceptable as King Ludwig IV.

But the two female leads carry the day hands down.

Substituting dramatic cohesion and logic for modern-dress attitudinizing and replete with Regietheater clichés – I counted fifteen fainting spells, three love-making on the floor moments, and countless instances the German text and the stage action were not in sync. – the staging by Christoph Loy, is as confusing as the good-guys vs. bad-guys libretto. Where are we? Why are we here? What is a bed doing in the middle of the ballroom… or is it a ballroom? Why are the courtiers clumped together in a corner of the room, and so on…

The superb Orff Vienna Symphony Orchestra and Arnold Schoenberg Choir are very well conducted by Constantin Trinks in this excellently engineered DVR.

Rafael de Acha