Benda: Romeo und Julie

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Benda
LABELS: Canterino
WORKS: Romeo und Julie
PERFORMER: Claudia Taha, Marisca Mulder, Joachim Keuper, Andreas Näck, Theo PfeiferLeipzig Vocal Soloists, Thüringen-Gotha Landes SO/Hermann Breuer
CATALOGUE NO: CNT 1083 DDD (distr. Tradelink/Waves)
Admired by no less an authority than Mozart, Georg Benda was the most remarkable representative of a remarkable family. In origin Bohemian, several generations of the Benda tribe enriched the musical life of the courts of Germany. Georg Benda spent of his creative life in Gotha where, in 1776, his Singspiel Romeo and Juliet was premiered. Although Shakespeare hovers in the background of Friedrich Gotter’s libretto, the story, complete with a happy ending, is substantially different from the bard’s. Musically, the opera is full of good things. Far from being the acorn from which mighty oaks such as Mozart’s Seraglio and The Magic Flute sprang, Romeo and Juliet combines elegance with an originality born of a strong theatrical instinct; doubters should try the superb start of Act II.

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The performance, taken from a recent staging, appropriately enough in Gotha, has rough moments, though it rarely falls below the respectable. The acreage of spoken dialogue can be edited out by jumping tracks so that the music can be enjoyed to the full. Notwithstanding a short second CD – the ideal place for one of Benda’s celebrated melodramas, perhaps – there is an enormous amount here to delight anyone interested in 18th-century opera. Jan Smaczny