Benda: Romeo und Julie
WORKS: Romeo und Julie
PERFORMER: Christian M Immler, Heidrun Kordes, Claron McFadden; Vocal Ensemble of the Forum Alte Musik Bremen, La Stagione Frankfurt/Michael Schneider
CATALOGUE NO: 999 496-2
Georg Benda was the most important member of an 18th-century Bohemian musical dynasty. In 1750 he was appointed Konzertmeister
at the court of Gotha, but chance circumstances provided an opportunity, in 1774, for him to
try his hand at dramatic music.
The melodramas Ariadne auf Naxos (1774) and Medea (1775) were
both highly successful, prompting Mozart to remark, in a letter to his father, ‘I love these works so much that I carry them with me’.
Romeo und Julie, though, is in the more operatic form of the
German Singspiel, in which the musical numbers – arias, duets and the occasional recitative – are interspersed with spoken dialogue.
Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter’s libretto is loosely based on Shakespeare’s play of the same
name and is very skilfully handled
by Benda. Many of the scenes
are through-composed, lyrical and well sustained, while the stylistic leanings and varied orchestration recall the operas of Hasse and
CH Graun. Michael Schneider
has not always shown flair in a theatrical context, but here he sustains a lively pace with a good
cast and an experienced ensemble
of period instruments.