BBC music magazine
Hilary Finch
Schubert: Fierrabras
Jonas Kaufmann, Juliane Banse, Twyla Robinson, Christoph Strehl, Michael Volle; Zurich Opera House Chorus & Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst; dir. Gudrun Hartmann (Zurich, 2005-06)
Label:EMI Cat No:500 9692 Run Time:171 mins
Schubert fares better at the hands of Welser-Möst, though Claus Guth’s direction makes Alice-in-Wonderland theatre of his heroic-Romantic tale of medieval chivalry, not really trusting it to be taken seriously at all. The composer himself is present throughout in a remarkable impersonation by Wolfgang Beuschel. Dwarfed by a giant grand piano and chair, little Franzl directs, prompts, empathises with and is daunted by his pairs of lovers and their anguished dilemmas of love and duty. Juliane Banse strains slightly to meet the vocal demands of the princess Emma; Michael Volle rises spendidly to the challenges of Roland; and Christoph Strehl and Twyla Robinson do their valiant best as Eginhard and Florinda. Jonas Kaufmann actually appears to enjoy himself in the title role (Schubert seems half in love with him), while Lászlo Polgár is a fierce König Karl in a toy crown (Schubert seems rather scared of him). It all seems a bit of a missed opportunity: no one has quite enough faith in a work which Schubert’s last anniversary year proved to be well worth taking more seriously than this.

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