PERFORMER: Julia Varady, Bernd Weikl; Tölz Boys Choir, Bavarian Radio Choir, Munich Radio Orchestra/Heinz Fricke
CATALOGUE NO: 47546-2
Strauss’s second opera has only rarely ventured beyond the bounds of Munich, the city where it is set. Both text and music are full of injokes, puns, allusions and quotations, the whole conceivably viewed as an allegory on the Straussian defence of Wagner and his posthumous spirit. But where his first opera, Guntram, reaked of Wagnerism from beginning to end, the one-act Feuersnot (Fire-Famine) is musically far more obviously Straussian, coming as it does after Don Quixote and only a year or two before Salome.
As with so many lesser-known Germanic operas, we are indebted to Bavarian Radio, the source of this 1985 recording, for tackling it with top-notch performers. Bernd Weikl and Julia Varady lead a devoted cast as the lovers whose fractious courtship results in all Munich’s fires being extinguished on Midsummer Eve.
The only down-side is the lack of an English translation of the libretto for this text-heavy work, but anyway, as David Murray suggests in the The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, if it is to establish itself on the world’s stages, ‘there is a strong case for reinventing its text in terms as rudely up to date as need be’. Matthew Rye