Rachel Harnisch, Annika Schlicht, Ronnita Miller, Stephen Bronk; Orchestra of the Deutsche Opera Berlin/Donald Runnicles
Oehms Classics OC 973 84:09 mins (2 discs)
A prolific composer now aged 82, Aribert Reimann has produced some dozen operas in all, of which L’Invisible, premiered in 2017 at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, is recorded here live; several performances as well as the dress rehearsal have been used to give as clear a sonic image as possible.
The work comprises three short operas, all settings of the Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck and sung in French. Maeterlinck’s Symbolist plays were hugely admired in his heyday, providing the texts for such better-known pieces as Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande (1902) and Dukas’s Ariane et Barbe-bleue (1907). Here the plays are L’Intruse (The Intruder), Intérieur (The Interior) and La Mort de Tintagiles. All of them concern families. In the first, a family waits while in the next room the cry of a baby is heard and its mother dies. In the second, an old man, watched by his companions, goes into a house to tell a family about the death of their daughter.
In the third, despite the efforts of his sisters, the child Tintagiles is captured by their grandmother’s servants, and she kills him. In the theatre, where these simple but potent stories would make a visual impact, the effect would surely be stronger than on a recording where the music alone creates atmosphere but is otherwise thin. But the performance under Donald Runnicles carries conviction, with several of the singers taking multiple roles and registering expressively.