Orff: Die Kluge

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Orff
LABELS: Berlin Classics
WORKS: Die Kluge
PERFORMER: Karl-Heinz Stryczek, Reiner Süss, Magdalena Falewicz, Harand Friedrich; Leipzig RSO/Herbert Kegel
CATALOGUE NO: 0094322 BC
There is a naive yet refreshing simplicity about Orff’s second opera The Wise Maiden that has ensured its continued popularity on the German stage. But whether such qualities are sufficient in themselves to recommend it to a wider audience is more questionable. For all its moments of high-spiritedness and satire, the story of the clever girl who manages to outwit the tyrannical king has precious little dramatic impact. A further problem is Orff’s over-reliance on spoken dialogue to carry forward the action – a particular disadvantage when, as in this recording, neither text nor translations are provided.

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The music follows very much in the footsteps of the ubiquitous Carmina burana, with short repetitive melodic patterns and oompah accompaniments very much the order of the day. Orff’s imaginative and skilful orchestration just about saves parts of the score from the charge of banality.

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It’s intriguing to note that an opera that was successfully premiered during the Third Reich should have found such strong advocacy from the East German performers on this 1980 recording. But while the playing of the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra under Herbert Kegel has plenty of vigour and commitment, the contribution of the singers, with the exception of the eloquent Siegfried Lorenz, lacks the essential larger-than-life characterisation which made the historic mid-Fifties EMI version with Schwarzkopf, Frick and Sawallisch so memorable. Erik Levi