The Telegraph
Richard Wigmore
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
Critics have routinely lacerated the arch verses and dramatic absurdities of Weber's last opera, composed for Covent Garden in 1826. Yet, within the confines of a peculiarly English genre - more pantomime than true opera - librettist James Robinson Planché did a skilful job.

Crucially, he gave the ailing composer opportunities for his most poetic orchestration and the musical portrayal of three contrasting spheres - the chivalric, the oriental-exotic, and the fairy world of Oberon.

After the overture, Oberon 's only famous number is Reiza's "Ocean, thou Mighty Monster", delivered by Hillevi Martinpelto with Mozartian elegance rather than, as so often, the heft of a Brünnhilde. But the whole score is filled with glorious invention, from the proto-Wagnerian storm to the shimmering fairy music that so influenced Mendelssohn.

Gardiner has long championed Oberon. And this recording, the first in English, does Weber proud. Roger Allam's narrations, doing duty for Planché's dialogue, can sound portentous. But Gardiner and his expert players relish the virtuosity of Weber's orchestration, while all the singers make their mark, above all Jonas Kaufmann, both muscular and lyrically refined as Sir Huon of Bordeaux.

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