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Graz Opera performs Daallapiccola’s Il Prigioniero der Gefangene

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Il Prigioniero der Gefangene
Aile Asszonyi, Manuel von Senden, Markus Butter, Roman Pichler, David McShane; Graz Opera Chorus; Graz Philharmonic Orchestra/Dirk Kaftan
Oehms Classics 970


Il Prigioniero is Dallapiccola’s masterpiece – the work in which his musical language, his political engagement and his innate sense of theatre all came together in perfect harmony. Even the look of the music on the printed page is part of the drama, lending it a metaphysical layer: the shapes of the 12-note rows themselves carry messages of hope, of freedom and of prayer, and the central scene’s complex counterpoint stands as a metaphor for the labyrinth of underground passages through which the prisoner attempts to effect his escape.

This Graz Opera performance is well, if a little carefully, conducted by Dirk Kaftan, while Aile Asszonyi and Markus Butter give assured accounts of the prisoner and his mother. Manuel von Senden isn’t ideally cast as the gaoler who deliberately feeds his prisoner with false hope: the part really needs a more lyrical tenor who can cajole with the sound of his voice. A more serious drawback is the distantly-placed off-stage chorus. Dallapiccola is quite specific about the effect he wants in the second choral intermezzo: the sound must be absolutely overwhelming, even if it means using loudspeakers in the theatre. The almost inaudible chorus on this new recording is a real dramatic disaster.

The booklet gives a very brief English synopsis, with the full libretto supplied in Italian and German only. But with Esa-Pekka Salonen’s fine Swedish Radio recording now hard to find, this new version offers what is in most respects an adequate account of this compelling work.


Misha Donat