LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
PERFORMER: Dorothea Röschmann, Roman Trekel, Werner Güra, Klaus Häger; RIAS Chamber Choir, Berlin Academy for Early Music/René Jacobs
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901714-16
The praise lavished on Keiser during his lifetime constantly stressed his originality and invention. As director from 1703 of the commercial opera house in Hamburg, he drew on Italian melody and vocal virtuosity, French humour and diversion, achieving accessibility by using German texts. Yet he broke conventions freely in the cause of dramatic realism – short strophic arias replacing lengthy ‘da capo’ when the action demands fast pace; arias drawn into the ongoing stage action; the cut and thrust of lively dialogue; tension released by comic interludes. With a level of dramatic realism far beyond most Baroque opera, Croesus is a revelation.
So too is the music from this wonderfully persuasive cast. Outstanding are Röschmann as the princess Elmira, at times ardently full-voiced, at others charmingly carefree, and Güra as Atis, a prince born dumb, disguise allowing him to conceal his new-found voice. Trekel is rich as Croesus, Kurt Azesberger a delightfully coarse comic servant. Characters are intensified by Keiser’s colourful orchestra – three chalumeaux darkening strings, ‘zuffolo’ adding piccolo brilliance and an arresting solo flute above pizzicato strings as Atis tests Elmira’s love.
A wide sound spectrum probably reflects the previous run of stage performances.
While I would personally have opted to sit a couple of rows further back, the ambience is strikingly alive. Not to be missed.