The Times
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Hillevi Martinpelto, Steve Davislim, Jonas Kaufmann, Marina Comparato, William Dazeley, Frances Bourne, Katherine Fuge, Roger Allam (narrator)
Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. John Eliot Gardiner
A major new studio recording of Weber's exotic supernatural opera, with a truly international cast conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Swedish soprano Hillevi Martinpelto, German tenor Jonas Kaufmann and Australian tenor Steve Davislim lead a distinguished international cast in Weber's enigmatic mythical drama.

Oberon was originally commissioned for Covent Garden. This recording is sung in the original English, with a narration by distinguished English actor Roger Allam who has been acclaimed for his many appearances with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

This studio recording was made following critically acclaimed concert performances including performances at The Barbican.

Weber's Oberon is full of a rich variety of musical styles and mixes some of the familiar characters of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with trials of love in exotic settings. It is - along with Weber's best known opera Der Freischütz - enormously important in the development of opera as it manages to link the world of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte with the music dramas of Wagner.

In 1826, an ailing Weber responded to a commission from Charles Kemble, of the Theatre Royal, for an English opera. Oberon (based on the German Romantic poet Wieland, rather than Shakespeare) was the result: “more a drama with songs”, remarked the composer resignedly, than a German-style Singspiel such as Der Freischütz, which, five years earlier, had won him Europewide renown. Hampered by James Robinson Planché’s banal text, Weber responded with one of his richest and most glorious scores. It has enjoyed several excellent recordings, but this is the first in the original English (with linking narration by the actor Roger Allam). Gardiner is in his element, relishing the wonderful orchestration, which the period instrumentalists of the ORR play superbly. It is odd, perhaps, to have international soloists in an English opera, but the Swedish soprano Hillevi Martinpelto makes a brave stab at Reiza’s Ocean, Thou Mighty Monster, and the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann has the heft and flexibility for Huon’s heroic aria, and the delicacy for his prayer.
Times, Four stars

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