Schreker: Der Schatzgraber

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schreker
LABELS: opera,review,schreker
ALBUM TITLE: Schreker: Der Schatzgraber
WORKS: Der Schatzgraber
PERFORMER: Tijl Faveyts; Manuela Uhl; raymond Very; Graham Clark; Netherlands Opera Chorus; Netherlands Philharmonic/Marc Albrecht
CATALOGUE NO: CC72591

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Part fairy-tale and part morality play, Der Schatzgräber (The Treasure Hunter) was first performed in Frankfurt in 1920. It follows similar preoccupations to Schreker’s previous opera Die Gezeichneten (a new recording of which is reviewed on the opposite page) in exploring the relationship between sensuality and art. It’s a much more lyrical work than its predecessor with a level of erotic intensity in the Act III love scene between the minstrel Elis and Els, the covetous daughter of a forest inn-keeper, that recalls Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Much performed during the early years of the Weimar Republic, it fell out of fashion in the mid-1920s and was later proscribed by the Nazis.

This vivid live recording, documenting the Netherlands Opera’s enterprising revival of the work in autumn 2012, is a tremendous achievement. Unlike a 1989 Hamburg performance reissued on Capriccio (reviewed February 2014), the opera is presented almost complete but for the excision of two short scenes in Act II. The recording balance is also far more satisfactory than on the earlier disc, allowing one to fully savour the luminosity of Schreker’s orchestration. It’s a pity however that Challenge Classics couldn’t find room for an English translation of the libretto in their lavish booklet.

As far as the performance is concerned, the main protagonists sing their roles very effectively, in particular tenor Graham Clark who is perfectly cast as the Court Jester. Yet the main plaudits must surely go to Marc Albrecht and the Netherlands Philharmonic. As was evident from Albrecht’s earlier recording of Strauss’s Elektra, the conductor has a particularly strong empathy for the overwrought Romanticism of early 20th-century Austro-German operas and he inspires his orchestra to deliver exceptionally warm and sophisticated playing throughout.

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Erik Levi