<< -- 2 -- Wilfrid Mellers SECOND SIGHT
Now at last we have a chance to savour his music, for René Jacobs
-- who built up a considerable reputation as a tenor specialising in Renaissance
and Baroque music, and subsequently became a music-theatre director honoured
for the equilibrium he achieved between authenticity and musical flair addressed
to the world-as-it-is -- has performed (at Staatsoper Unter den Linden
Berlin in 1999), and has now recorded, one of Keiser's seemingly innumerable
operas with a brilliant German cast and his own Berlin Alte Musik
group, to which we are already indebted for many renovative rediscoveries.
It must have been a tricky task to decide which opera, from Keiser's
cornucopia, to select for resuscitation. Jacobs says that he chose Croesus
because the universality of its theme ensures continuing topicality.
Since its hero is a legendarily rich man, it involves the material power
that unlimited wealth may imbue man with, while at the same time revealing
the hollowness of materiality's pretence.
Keiser wrote all his operas for the Hambourg Staatsoper, and was adept
at re-creating Italianate conventions in terms congenial to his own society.
This meant that he modelled his operas on Venetian traditions which were
'up to the minute' in allowing for incipiently democratic impulses,
thereby admitting that man's attempts to play God were doomed to failure.
The realities of private passions were always likely to be at odds with
public presumptions; the intrusion of 'low' types such as servants
might at any moment prick the bubbles of pomp and circumstance, the more
so if, as here, an originally Italian libretto were translated into vernacular
German. The German librettist, Lukas von Bostel, was a minor poet of some
talent. Jacobs bolsters realism by sometimes substituting natural male voices
for Keiser's castrati; the performers are so adept, and Jacobs's
direction so musically intelligent, that the balance between what was and
what can still be sounds totally convincing.
Copyright © 14 April 2001
Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK
CD INFORMATION - HARMONIA MUNDI HM 901714.16
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