Boesmans: Wintermärchen

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Boesmans
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Wintermärchen
PERFORMER: Dale Duesing, Susan Chilcott, Cornelia Kallisch, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Franz-Josef Selig; Aka Moon, La Monnaie SO & Chorus/Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: Ô20/21Õ 469 559-2
The Belgian Philippe Boesmans’s second opera Reigen, based upon Arthur Schnitzler’s play, was one of the operatic hits of the Nineties, which has already been seen in a variety of productions across Europe, and his most recent stage work Wintermärchen, premiered at La Monnaie in Brussels in December 1999 (whence this recording), has begun to travel too. It is a product of the same team that produced Reigen – Luc Bondy had a hand in fashioning the libretto from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and also directed the premiere, Antonio Pappano conducts again – while Boesman’s music continues along the path of stylistic synthesis that had been a feature of the earlier work too.

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In Wintermärchen, though, the music is even more breathless and eclectic: scenes tumble over each other at top speed, the vocal lines veer between Berg and Sondheim, and the orchestra alludes to a vast historical spectrum of styles, with a prominent role for the accordion. The big jolt occurs between the second and third acts, when the action moves from Sicily to Bohemia and forward by 16 years; the text switches from German to English, and an improvising jazz-rock trio, Aka Moon, is introduced to signal a new world. But it all seems too schematic and contrived, and even though the final act returns to the world of the opening, it cannot measure up to the wonderful epiphany of Shakespeare’s play. Andrew Clements