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Widely overlooked when first released, these opera sets have been re-issued to capitalise on the fact that in each case the leading tenor role is sung by Jonas Kaufmann, who was little known when the recordings were made.
The voice sounds lighter than today, but what makes listening to him early in his career so fascinating is that his essential qualities are already there – the burnished lyricism, the dramatic-heroic edge, the innate musicality, the unmistakable timbre.
Kaufmann apart, these two fairy-tale operas will reward anyone interested in the byways of German Romanticism. Der Vampyr (The Vampire), a tale of supernatural horror, breathes the heady lyricism of the 1820s. Königskinder (Royal Children), premiered at the Met in 1910, shares some of Hänsel und Gretel’s post-Wagnerian traits, in a darker, more elegiac framework.
Both performances have been lovingly put together. The Marschner was a 1999 Cologne Radio studio production conducted by Helmuth Froschauer, with Hawlata as the Vampire and Kaufmann as his nemesis Aubry (a musical cousin of Max in Weber’s Der Freischütz). The Humperdinck emanates from a well-cast concert performance at the 2005 Montpellier festival, conducted by Armin Jordan.
Jonas Kaufmann, Detlef Roth, Ofelia Sala
(Accord) 3 CDs
Jonas Kaufmann, Franz Hawlata, Regina Klepper
(Capriccio) 2 CDs