WORKS: Un re in ascolto
PERFORMER: Theo Adam, Heinz Zednik, Helmuth Lohner; Vienna PO/Lorin Maazel
CATALOGUE NO: WWE 20005
Nine years after its Covent Garden production, and 14 after its world premiere at Salzburg, appears the first recording of this astonishing work. Never mind if you missed the spectacular stagings, the music and singing are the thing. They are superbly captured in this live radio recording of the Salzburg premiere.
The heart of the work is six soliloquy arias for the bass-baritone ‘listening king’ of the title, powerfully sung by Theo Adam. This monarch is a Max Reinhardt impresario battling to keep his show on the road but defeated by the terrible knowledge that even artistic perfection is as insubstantial as Prospero’s ‘cloud-capp’d towers’. Swirling around him is a very Italian theatrical circus owing much to commedia dell’arte, Pirandello and Fellini’s 81¼2. Sopranos audition for the king and rail at him for his dreams of omnipotence; his director betrays his ideas just as Aaron did those of Moses in Schoenberg’s opera, a palpable godparent to Berio’s. Yes, it is intellectually demanding, but also deeply emotional, with impassioned song fighting clear of complex ensembles. No modern work has more magically addressed the glory and tragedy of the lyric stage at the end of the 20th century. Patrick Carnegy