Schreker: Die Gezeichneten

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schreker
LABELS: Bridge
ALBUM TITLE: Schreker: Die Gezeichneten
WORKS: Die Gezeichneten
PERFORMER: Anja Kampe; Robert Brubaker; Martin Gantner; James Johnson; Wolfgang Schone; LA Opera/James Conlon
CATALOGUE NO: 9400A/C

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With its heady mixture of eroticism and violence, Die Gezeichneten (The Stigmatised), was a sensational success at its first performance in Frankfurt in 1918. It’s a tragic psychological story, concerning the deformed Genoese nobleman Alviano Salvago and his ill-fated love for the beautiful consumptive painter Carlotta Nardi.

The score is among Schreker’s most opulent, brimful of ravishing orchestral sonorities and lushly chromatic harmonies, but as with Strauss’s Salome, there are disturbing undercurrents which reach a climax after Alviano’s sudden descent into madness at the conclusion of Act III.

This live recording, drawn from performances given by LA Opera in April 2010, has much to commend it. All the principal singers deliver strongly characterised performances. Soprano Anja Kampe brings an admirable balance between fragility and pathos to the role of Carlotta, and the love scene with Alviano (marvellously sung by tenor Robert Brubaker) in Act II is particularly haunting. Baritone Martin Gantner is a suitably boorish Tamare while bass-baritone Wolfgang Schöne’s Podesta is weighty and authoritative. Conductor James Conlon, who has already garnered an impressive reputation for his recordings of Zemlinsky’s operas, negotiates the ebb and flow of Schreker’s post-Wagnerian language with a keen sense of theatrical immediacy.   

The one slight drawback to the present performance is the LA Opera Orchestra. True, the playing has plenty of gusto, particularly in the swiftly moving scene shifts of Act III. More concerning, however, is the somewhat undernourished sound in the opening Prelude where horns are far too distantly placed to achieve the requisite euphoric sound in the many surging climaxes. In this respect, the rival studio recording on Decca, featuring sumptuous playing from the Deutsches-Symphonie Orchestra Berlin under Lothar Zagrosek, remains a first choice.

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Erik Levi