Reimann: Melusine

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Melusine
PERFORMER: Marlene Mild, Teresa Erbe, Gabriele May, Richard Kindley, Song-Hu Liu, Wieland Satter, Dariusz Siedlik, Sibrand Basa; Nürnberg PO/Peter Hirsch


This reincarnation of the archetypal Melusine appeared first in Yvan Goll’s play of 1920; the opera – adapted by Claus H Hennenberg – was premiered half a century later, though this is its first outing on disc. Young Melusine is trapped between the reality of her unhappy marriage and the magic of the trees and water, with their dark characters who  claim her as kin. After desperately fighting the planned destruction of her natural kingdom, she falls for the very man whose orders inflicted such grief, causing the spirits of nature to wreak a fiery revenge.

The orchestra, a counterpoint to the singers, forms luminous clouds of dissonance or lurches in unpredictable rhythms. There is a sense, though, that this is a missed opportunity of musical characterisation: too little conflict exists between the music of the real and magical realms. This leads to the pivotal love duet, where Melusine renounces her claim to nature, falling rather flat after the tightly wrought drama of the first three acts.

Reimann owes much to the expressionist operas of Berg and Schoenberg. He invites comparison with Lulu in particular by exploring innocence and seduction; Melusine’s beauty is employed as a weapon to protect the natural world, with deadly consequences.


Unfortunately, however, the comparison highlights the relative superficiality of Melusine’s portrayal, despite very fine singing from Marlene Mild. There is much to admire here, but the listener could have been drawn further into this magical world. Neil Smith