Michael Johnson

Heinrich August Marschner: Der Vampyr
The main reason Capriccio have re-released this recording from a radio broadcast of 1999 is because of the current super-stardom of Jonas Kaufmann who performs the lead role of Edgar Aubry. The Kaufmanniacs can rest assured that their favourite guy gives full justification to his then-rising star in, especially in his single aria “Wie ein schöner Frülingsmorgen” His character has the central love-versus-duty predicament in the highly contrived plot. Edgar Aubry is pledged to keep a secret by his friend, Lord Ruthven, who is the vampyr (or “vampyre” as the word first appeared in John Polidori’s story) of the title. Ruthven must murder three brides within 24 hours or else he will be taken back to the grave. He murders two and is set to murder his own fiancée (Malwina, beloved also of Aubry) when, just at the final moment...

Franz Hawlata sounds strained as Lord Ruthven - the part seems rather high-lying for him. (Hawlata currently has a well-established career in the lower bass-baritone fach.) Regina Klepper is fine as Malwina, the maiden torn between two swains - as is the rest of the cast. Helmuth Froschauer delivers a well-paced performance that never really catches fire, although it might be unreasonable to expect a performance of the work to do so. Marschner was a perfectly adept composer in the mainstream romantic idiom. The work owes a lot to Weber’s Der Freischütz, especially in the ominous opening moments when we find ourselves in a near-recreation of the Wolf’s Glen scene.

Der Vampyr was premiered in Leipzig in 1828. In the audience was the 15-year-old Richard Wagner, whose first opera was just five years away. The work doesn’t reveal a key to what Wagner eventually produced, but is of interest for what it shows us of the musical environment of the day.

Here is yet another relatively unknown work released without a libretto. Luckily, however, the internet comes to the rescue. Several years ago Lyric Opera of Los Angeles staged the work and the libretto was posted at this page where it still exists. It can be found in German, English and Spanish, although not with side-by-side translation.

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