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Alfonso und Estrella (2004)

Not Rated | | Music, Drama | Video
Most of Schubert's operas were written without a specific commission, in the hope that, once completed, some theatre might find them interesting simply by virtue of their musical value. ... See full summary »




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Credited cast:
Eva Mei ...
Rainer Trost ...
Markus Werba ...
Jochen Schmeckenbecher ...
Alfred Muff ...
Enrico Cossutta ...
Comandante della Guardia
Elena Monti ...
Una fanciulla
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Pavel Chernoch ...
Un ragazzo
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Lirico di Cagliari ...
Orchestra e Coro


Most of Schubert's operas were written without a specific commission, in the hope that, once completed, some theatre might find them interesting simply by virtue of their musical value. This unrealistic optimism proved almost always wrong and Schubert suffered bitter disappointments, very often working for nothing. Begun on 20th September 1821, Alfonso und Estrella was completed on 27th February 1822 but was first staged, on the initiative of Franz Liszt, only in 1854, after Schubert's death. Alfonso und Estrella has the characteristic climate of a romantische Oper. If it is true that Schubert lacks the sense of theatre which is typical of the best operatic composers of his day (for example Weber), the power of his creativity and beauty of many arias cannot be denied.

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Interesting and well-performed production of a not-too-great opera
24 August 2016 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

For a composer whose music I can listen to all day (his music is also wonderful to perform, while they are often not easy singing his songs always fill me with joy and emotion, more so than any other composer of Lieder), 'Alfonso Und Estrella' is really not one of Schubert's best works.

It is intriguing for anybody who wants to hear everything by Schubert, or for anybody who wonders whether his very small operatic output is up to par with his chamber, symphonic and song output (while it is of interest, to me it is nowhere near close). However, despite some really lovely music, Schubert seems incapable of writing a bad note and such, the characters while charming are standard and dramatically the work is a complete mess, static, slow-moving with many scenes that drag on endlessly.

This is an interesting performance of 'Alfonso Und Estrella', and it's very well performed indeed. At the same time, it isn't able to overcome the problems that the opera has. Admittedly it is very difficult to do anything with a barely existent or discernible story, but still the drama is not involving and doesn't do anything to make the drama interesting, everything feeling static (with the chorus especially completely neglected) and at snail pace. The costumes are nice enough, but the sets are pretty drab and sparse.

However, while occasionally cluttered the orchestral playing is rich in colour, dynamics, textures, energy and nuances, which does make it a shame that what's happening (or not happening more like) on stage doesn't match it. The chorus are marvellous and do much with little, and Gérard Korsten conducts the music beautifully, the lyrical moments are caressed and lingered on without being self-indulgent, the robust and rousing parts have tremendous vigour and every aspect of Schubert's orchestration (proving that Schubert was as much a master of orchestration as he was for voice) is crystal-clear.

Eva Mei and Rainer Trost here both give one of their best performances on DVD, Mei being dependable if not always consistent and Trost having always been impressive from memory. Both here are excellent. As is Alfred Muff, who is menacing without resorting to mugging, while Markus Werba again proves that he deserves to be seen and heard more, singing with mellow tone and performing with strong characterisation which is more than his role allows. Jochen Schmeckenbecher booms ominously as well.

Overall, interesting and well-performed, but while the opera has some interest value it will never be a great opera and only really has Schubert's music going for it. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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