Aribert Reimann: Melusine

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REIMANN Melusine Peter Hirsch, cond; Marlene Mild ( Melusine ); Teresa Erbe ( Pythia ); Gabriele May ( Madame Lapérouse ); Richard Kindley ( Max Oleander ); Song-Hu Liu ( Count Von Lusignan ); Nuremberg P WERGO WER 6719 2 (2 CDs: 96:47 Text and Translation) Live: Nuremberg 5/12/2007

Aribert Reimann (b. 1936) has pursued a dual career as composer and pianist; he was Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s accompanist for 20th-century repertoire. Reimann has written perhaps 50 major works in many forms, most of them including the voice. He is best known for his ambitious operas based on major literary works: The Trojan Women (Euripedes), A Dream Play and The Ghost Sonata (Strindberg), The Castle (Kafka), The House of Bernarda Alba (Lorca), Medea (after Franz Grillparzer), and—talk about ambitious—Shakespeare’s Lear , the latter written for Fischer-Dieskau, who suggested the subject and sang the 1978 premiere, recorded live by Deutsche Grammophon.

The 1971 Melusine , based on a play by Yvon Goll, is the “Pastoral” Symphony of Reimann’s dramas, a breath of fresh air amid all that heavy breathing. It is the classic story of a mermaid who loves a mortal, for which they both must pay with their lives— Rusalka moved to the big city, or at least to a park at the edge of town. Max’s former lover, Madame Lapérouse, has arranged his marriage to Melusine, who remains virginal despite his complaints. She in turn consorts with her magical friends in the woods; the fairy Pythia (her Ježibaba) gives her the fishtail, which “closes her loins but makes her irresistible to men,” some of whom die for her. Finally, she falls for the Count, and you know the rest.

As befits a fairy tale, the elegant music is lighter and easier than the dense, mostly serial expressionism of Lear and The Castle , and the spare, harsh melodrama of Bernarda Alba . But the most fascinating—astonishing—thing about Melusine is the title character’s vocal line, which makes the Queen of the Night sound like a basso profundo. It has easily the highest tessitura I have ever encountered, probably around a’’, with excursions up through the next octave. Even more amazing is the apparent ease with which Marlene Mild handles the range and the coloratura; there is no screeching or squeaking here, and—after the astonishment wears off—her singing comes to seem natural for this mythical, magical creature. Baritone Song-Hu Liu is also marvelous as the Count; they share a long, gorgeous duet in the final act, which is surrounded by two impressive orchestral interludes. The whole cast is eminently satisfactory, as is the orchestra. The opera is a bit slow to get started—scene 1 is a tedious debate between Max and Madame which brings us up to snuff on who’s who and what’s what—but it takes wing with Melusine’s entrance. The live recording is clear and clean, with no audience intrusions. German and English texts appear on facing pages. Unless you can’t abide any music beyond Strauss, this is definitely an opera worth getting to know.

FANFARE: James H. North

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: WER67192

  • UPC: 4010228671926

  • Label: Wergo

  • Composer: Aribert Reimann

  • Conductor: Peter Hirsch

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Nuremberg Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Performer: Dariusz Siedlik, Elisabeth Sommermann, Gabriele May, Katrin Dieckelt, Marlene Mild, Richard Kindley, Sibrand Basa, Songhu Liu, Teresa Erbe, Thomas Fleischmann, Tim Stekkelies, Wieland Satter


  1. Melusine

    Composer: Aribert Reimann

    Ensemble: Nuremberg Philharmonic Orchestra

    Performer: Sibrand Basa, Katrin Dieckelt, Teresa Erbe, Thomas Fleischmann, Richard Kindley, Songhu Liu, Gabriele May, Marlene Mild, Wieland Satter (Bass Baritone), Dariusz Siedlik, Elisabeth Sommermann, Tim Stekkelies

    Conductor: Peter Hirsch