Gramophone 2002/1

Marschner: Der Vampyr
Markus Marquardt Sir Humphrey Davenaut ; Regina Klepper Malwina ; Jonas Kaufmann Edgar Aubry ; Franz Hawlata Lord Ruthven ; Yooh-Chang Nah Sir Berkley ; Anke Hoffmann Janthe ; Thomas Dewald George Dibdin ; Anke Hoffmann Emmy ; Heinz Heidbüchel James Gadshill West German Radio Orchestra/Helmuth Froschauer Capriccio CD 60083 (129 minutes : DDD)
At the centre of Act 2 of Der Vampyr is the scene in which Lord Ruthven paints the horrors of his vampirism to the appalled Aubry: the dreadful suffering caused by the dreadful compulsion‚ the anguish of the murderous lust that must be sated‚ the ache for the lost innocence he must destroy in others. It is Marschner’s finest single exposition of the idea that obsessed him in several of his operas‚ that of the agonised villain held back by his villainy from the heroic stature he might otherwise achieve. It derives from Weber’s Lysiart but anticipates Wagner’s Flying Dutchman‚ and has attracted a number of darkvoiced German baritones. Siegfried Niemsgern gave a fine performance on the Warner Fonit set which came out earlier this year; here now is Franz Hawlata‚ delivering the scene with the ferocity he displays in the more conventional vengeance aria ‘Ha! welche Lust’‚ but also with the warmth of tone and phrasing which draws compassion for the vampire’s plight. It is a strong and sensitive performance which is well contrasted with Jonas Kaufmann’s Aubry‚ the young man bound by an oath and by fear for his own soul not to betray the vampire’s secret. Kaufmann rises well to the final dramatic confrontation‚ and sings his finest solo number‚ ‘Wie ein schöner Frühlingsmorgen’‚ elegantly and touchingly. Of the three female victims whom Ruthven must vampirise so as to gain another year’s reprieve‚ Regina Klepper does best as Malwina‚ with a bright soprano tone that suits the part and develops greater subtlety with the darkening of her plight. Anke Hoffmann sings her Lied and her vampire ballad prettily enough‚ though the latter would be stronger for a greater sense of foreboding‚ and she doubles in the brief appearance made by Janthe before being murdered. Of the others‚ Markus Marquardt sustains well the unsympathetic part of Sir Humphrey Davenaut‚ who tries to compel his daughter Malwina to marry Ruthven‚ and his final realisation of what he has nearly brought about is affectingly managed. YooChang Nah sings strongly as Janthe’s father Sir Berkley (sic). Like the Warner Fonit set‚ the opera is given here not in the Pfitzner arrangement with the overture delayed until after the first scene‚ but with some of the now standard cuts. It includes the full drinking chorus‚ cut to a single verse on Warner‚ which allows the singers who set out the reasons for drinking in each and every season to become increasingly unsteady as the year revolves. Helmuth Froschauer conducts a splendidly colourful and energetic performance of a work that well deserves a full recording. Of the two recordings now available‚ this is the finer set‚ though neither helps its cause (or Marschner’s) by poor documentation. Warner’s sloppy booklet includes an Italian translation of the libretto that constantly slips out of parallel and gives erratic indication of cuts; but at least it prints some of the dialogue – cut from both recordings – which Capriccio’s German libretto (with no translation) omits. The brief synopsis does not help. Yet again an enterprising recording has been denied its appeal to collectors by a selfdefeating sense of economy.

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