Egk: Die Verlobung in San Domingo

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Die Verlobung in San Domingo
PERFORMER: Evelyn Lear, Margarete Bence, Hans Günter Nöcker, Fritz WunderlichBavarian State Orchestra/Werner Egk
CATALOGUE NO: C 343 932 I ADD mono
This is the first of a promised series of live recordings from the archives of one of the world’s great opera houses, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich (see also next page). And what a wonderful cast it was able to field from its in-house singers, without resorting to globe-trotting stars. The booklet note tells us that one of the cast on this recording, which was made in 1963, is still singing with the company now – what British or American opera house could boast that kind of continuity? About the singing there can be no doubt – it’s marvellous. Evelyn Lear as the mulatto slave and Fritz Wunderlich as the French army officer with whom she falls in love are electrifying. But the opera itself is another matter. The New Grove Dictionary says of Werner Egk’s works that they ‘have failed to gain a permanent place in the repertory, even though Egk’s aim has always been for immediate appreciation’. This judgement might be truer if the words ‘even though’ were replaced with ‘precisely because’. The music effectively semaphores the feelings in the drama – but it never establishes a strong musical personality. The recording, which apart from the voices is thin and bloodless, doesn’t help matters. In the end, not even the marvellous performance can rescue the opera, which should perhaps have been allowed to retire gracefully into oblivion. Ivan Hewett