PERFORMER: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Helga Dernesch, Colette Lorand, Julia Varady, Rolf Boysen; Bavarian State Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Gerd Albrecht
CATALOGUE NO: 463 480-2 ADD Reissue (1979)
For composers, Shakespeare’s King Lear has proved attractive, yet also something of a jinx. Both Verdi and Britten abandoned Lear projects before they got off the ground; so it was left to Aribert Reimann, inspired by the artistry of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, to take up the challenge.
The result is a stark, expressionist onslaught on the senses – all clusters, fanfares and purposeful rhetoric, tempered only by the ironic, folkish interruptions of the Fool, and an exquisite Lear-Cordelia reconciliation scene before the very end. The invention may sometimes be thin, but the power of this flawed opera, especially as projected by this vintage cast, is never in doubt. Nicholas Williams