WORKS: Der Schauspieldirektor; Der wohltätige Derwisch
PERFORMER: Cyndia Sieden, Sharon Baker, Deanne Meek, John Aler, Kevin Deas, Alan Ewing; Boston Baroque/Martin Pearlman
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80573
Like the recently unearthed Philosopher’s Stone, The Beneficent Dervish is a composite effort by members of Emanuel Schikaneder’s troupe, including Benedikt Schack (the first Tamino), Franz Xaver Gerl (the first Sarastro) and Schikaneder himself. But there’s no possibility here, as there was with the slightly earlier Philosopher’s Stone, that Mozart had a hand in the score. Nor can any of the music in this oriental fairytale Singspiel hold a candle to The Magic Flute. There is a sprinkling of jolly ditties in sub-Papageno-ish vein, and some colourful scoring for woodwind and ‘Turkish’ percussion. But the predictable, short-breathed phrases, constricted harmonies and total lack of musical development only highlight the gulf between competence and genius. The performance is enjoyable enough, with tangy orchestral playing and some lively singing from John Aler, Sharon Baker and Alan Ewing as a sonorous if slightly rough-toned Dervish.
Though minor Mozart, The Impresario — a spoof on bickering prima donnas — is on a totally different plane of sophistication and inventiveness. A lot here depends on the performance of the two sopranos in their cruelly high-lying arias. And while Cyndia Sieden, as Madame Herz, copes gracefully with her flights above the stave, Sharon Baker, as her rival Mademoiselle Silberklang, tends to sound shrill whenever the going gets tough. Those who enjoyed The Philosopher’s Stone may well want to investigate its slighter successor. But if your primary interest is The Impresario, I’d recommend the Harnoncourt version for its more consistently satisfying singing. Richard Wigmore