Weber: Abu Hassan

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WORKS: Abu Hassan
PERFORMER: Edda Moser, Nicolai Gedda, Kurt Moll; Bavarian State Opera Chorus & Orchestra/ Wolfgang Sawallisch
The sunnier side of German opera in the first half of the 19th century is ripe for exploration. These reissues in CPO’s series of unfamiliar works from the period are a good place to begin. Abu Hassan catches Weber in Turkish mood ten years before his masterpiece, Der Freischütz. There are echoes of Mozart’s Entführung, but the sprightly charm and musical wit are pure Weber – a tenor aria accompanied by two guitars and bassoon obbligato and a mock lament for the soprano heroine are among the gems. Himself then in debt, the composer plainly relished the Monty Pythonesque plot of a stony-broke couple who feign death in order to pocket the Caliph’s funeral grant. Edda Moser, Nicolai Gedda and Kurt Moll are quite superb, as are the orchestra and chorus under Sawallisch.


Poised somewhere between Der Schauspieldirektor and Strauss’s Capriccio, in Lortzing’s Die Opernprobe (1851) you discover Mozart’s Susanna rehearsing a pocket opera company of fellow domestics when a tenor Don Giovanni – Gedda again – and baritone Leporello (Walter Berry) turn up to audition. This is a weightier score than Abu Hassan, but is packed with exquisite parodies of operatic pretension. Again, a superlative cast and orchestral contribution, this time under Otmar Suitner. Patrick Carnegy