Opera News/November 2005
Humperdick: Königskinder, Montpellier, 27 July 2005
For many festival goers the concert performance of Die Königskinder was the highlight of this year’s operatic offerings, and fortunately the evening has been recorded for future CD release. Humperdinck’s work has never achieved the popularity of his Hänsel und Gretel. The work is both long and wordy, but the music is rich and expressive. Armin Jordan conducted an uncut version of the Expressionistic score to the manner born, and the evening took on a majestic sweep that fully justified Puccini’s reported enthusiasm for the Met premiere in 1910, with Geraldine Farrar as the Gänsemagd — a first night that followed the debut of the Italian composer’s own La Fanciulla del West by just fifteen days. In addition to the magnificent conducting of Jordan and the vibrant playing of the Orchestre National de Montpellier, the evening benefited from outstanding singing from the two main principals: Jonas Kaufmann as the Königssohn and Ofelia Sala as the Gänsemagd.

Kaufmann showed himself to be the finest of young German lyric tenors, with broad, muscular phrasing and clear, unflaggingly resonant tone, while Sala rose magnificently to the moving final scene, where the two “Königskinder” find love and royal status, but die poisoned by the loaf of bread baked up in Act I by the heavily pregnant, spitefully malicious witch of mezzo Nora Gubisch. (Armchair analysts might care to consider just why Humperdinck had it in for children in both of his best known operas.) There was also great singing from an experienced line-up of artists in secondary roles especially baritone Detlev Roth as the Spielmann, the ever faithful Lithuanian Radio chorus and the delightful Töchterchen of the young Nelly Lawson.

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