Marschner: Der Vampyr

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Marschner
LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Der Vampyr
PERFORMER: Regina Klepper, Franz Hawlata, Jonas Kaufmann, Markus Marquardt; Cologne WDR Radio Chorus & Orchestra/Helmuth Froschauer
CATALOGUE NO: 60083
Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861) was the most successful German composer of serious opera between Weber and Wagner, and influenced the latter just as clearly as the former influenced him. His penchant for the Gothic horror mode is evident in Hans Heiling (1833), about a supernatural being who seeks to marry a mortal woman, and the present work (1828), in which a Scottish lord, in reality a vampire, needs to find three new victims in one single day to save him from a fate worse than death.

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The least interesting sections of the score have an enjoyable Biedermeier charm to them, but the greater part – especially the music for the anti-hero, Lord Ruthven – shows a relish for the conjuring of the dark side of human nature in musical terms. This new set has stronger vocal credentials than the Warner Fonit version reviewed in May. Franz Hawlata’s Ruthven overdoes declamation at the expense of line, but he’s a credible villain. Jonas Kaufmann is likeable as the decent but vacillating Aubry, who eventually exposes the vampire. The diversity of the three female victims – the last of whom, Malwina (Regina Klepper), gets away – is compromised by the decision to cast the same singer (Anke Hoffmann) as both Janthe and Emmy. Helmuth Froschauer’s conducting is tame.

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Documentation is poor, with the libretto in German only. This historically important and regularly fascinating piece still awaits a satisfactory and fully annotated recording. George Hall