PERFORMER: Klaus Florian Vogt, Juliane Banse, Christian Gerhaher, Gabriele Schnaut, Andreas Hörl, Stephan Rügamer, Sophia Schupelius; Rundfunkchor Berlin; Berlin Girls’ Choir; Berlin SO/Ingo Metzmacher
CATALOGUE NO: N67044
Royal Children is the only opera of Humperdinck’s, apart from the immortal Hansel and Gretel, to remain in the repertoire, and then only on the fringe. It isn’t hard to see why it is a rarity. Though it contains a great deal of beautiful music, it is quite long, and it is almost unremittingly gloomy. Act III is headed ‘Misery – Dead’ and its music and drama justify the title.
The text, by Humperdinck, is adapted from a play which includes a Witch, a captive Goose Girl, a King’s Son who wants to marry her, but is magically prevented from doing almost anything, and a wild Fiddler who has much of the best music. Any ten-minute stretch of the music sounds very good indeed, if not tuneful in the Hansel way. The Fiddler on this recording is Christian Gerhaher, perhaps the leading German Lieder singer of the moment; and he is wonderful.
The two royal children are pretty good, too: Juliane Banse is a radiant Goose Girl despite her unremitting tribulations, and Klaus Florian Vogt an ardent King’s Son. However, there is another recent set, on Accord, which has the enormous asset of Jonas Kaufmann’s King’s Son, and – a major consideration – a booklet with German and English text; whereas this new set has German only, and if you couldn’t follow the words closely this would be a real ordeal. Michael Tanner