Franz Schubert was a prolific composer, perhaps best known for his symphonies and chamber music, but he also turned his hand to Romantic opera. Despite having no experience of seeing his theatrical works performed on stage, Schubert’s enthusiasm for the genre was not dampened. In 1821, in close collaboration with librettist Franz von Schober, the composer began work on Alfonso und Estrella. He would never see the opera performed during his lifetime, and although it was premiered by Franz Lizst in Weimar in 1854, the work – criticised for its lack of dramatic action – would never make it into the core repertoire.
While the opera would not necessarily triumph onstage from a dramatic point of view, a recording is the perfect medium in which to revel in the charming lyricism of the work. This special recording from 1978 brought the opera out of neglect, boasting an impressive list of singers. Schreier is praised for his ‘elegant tones and graceful phrasing’ (Gramophone) in the role of Alfonso, and Mathis brings warmth and sensitivity to the role of Estrella. The cast list also boasts internationally acclaimed baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, whose duet with Herman Prey – in which their voices unite ‘in consummate artistry’ (Gramophone)– is undoubtedly a highlight of the recording.
- This 1978 recording is the first issue of the opera, presenting the strongest cast possible: Edith Mathis, Hermann Prey, Peter Schreier, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Eberhard Büchner, Theo Adam, voices in their full glory and bloom, expertly supported by the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Otmar Suitner.
- During his whole (short) life Franz Schubert tried to gain public success by writing operas in the then popular Italian style of Rossini. Sadly his breakthrough never came, and his operas, many of which were not completed, were never performed during his lifetime.
- Alfonso und Estrella contains vintage Schubert: lyricism, charm, and his godly melodic gift, more than compensating a certain lack of dramatic action.
- Contains liner notes and synopsis.
- Libretti available at www.brilliantclassics.com.