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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A GORGEOUS OPERA YOU'LL NEVER SEE PERFORMED, February 13, 2011
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This review is from: Weber: Oberon (Audio CD)
Weber's "Oberon" is one of those operas that has gorgeous music, fabulous arias, incredible orchestration, etc, ------ and is an opera that you will never likely see performed on the opera stage. The reasons are simple: the plot is so interwoven with subplots and scene changes that a full staging would be prohibitively expensive, especially in these austere times. So, you might ask, why couldn't it be performed in a concert version? Again, the answer is simple: the roles of Rezia and Huon are so taxing and difficult that it would be impossible today to find a Dramatic tenor and Dramatic soprano able to encompass the sheer difficulty of the music. "Oberon" is sort of like Italian bel canto, but from a German composer who wrote for very weighty voices. The plot is a fantasy, which deals with fidelity, and it's sometimes difficult to follow the action because the locales are so diverse. Nevertheless, it is an important opera -a masterpiece in my opinion, and should be heard. A DVD of "Oberon" would be wonderful, but again, the problems of staging and having the right singers would make it an almost impossible undertaking.

The role of Rezia, wife of Huon, is a role that even most Dramatic Sopranos (if we had them, which we don't) would avoid. She's got one huge aria,"Ozean, du Ungheuer" ("Ocean, Thou Mighty Monster"), that ALONE is enough to strike terror into the heart of any singer. The last "real" Rezia was Birgit Nilsson, who stormed through the aria as though it were a simple trifle. Well, it's not - and because the opera is never performed, this famous "Ocean" aria has become a staple of great Dramatic sopranos who perform it on the concert stage with orchestra. It's been sung in English as well as German, and the orchestration truly conjures up the image of a monster. Rezia's husband, Huon, has a hardly easier time with an aria he's assigned, 'Von Jugend auf in dem Kampfgefild", with a "cabaletta" loaded with leaps, jumps, and all but impossible vocal hurdles. Oberon, the character of the title role, actually gets off relatively easy in this piece, as do the other singers. Musical numbers are linked together by German dialogue, which is not terribly lengthy. It's the music that counts here.

What DOES count here is the presence of a 28 year old Placido Domingo, and a Birgit Nilsson in full-cry. It is they who make this set a must-have, for it is their singing alone that is this set's greatest selling point. From the mighty Nilsson, one would expect such dramatic outbursts, but Domingo, even at this young age, shocks the listener with his stentorian authority, and his command of German, while not as proficient as it would become later in his career, is impressive enough. The supporting roles are all well taken. This is an opera to hear and experience, and this particular recording, despite it's moderate price, is in excellent stereo and is a pleasure to listen to. For the music and singing alone, this belongs in every opera collection.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 24, 2014 3:10:58 PM PST
March boy says:
"a role that even most Dramatic Sopranos (if we had them, which we don't)"

Have you ever listened to Christine Brewer or Luba Orgonasova? You should try out Brewer's Ariadne auf Naxos and Luba Orgonasova's La Sonnambula and recital album. They both have very rich, dark, chocklately voices I would definetly classify as lyrico spinto.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 24, 2014 9:38:05 PM PST
L. Mitnick says:
Thanks for your comments. I've heard and seen Christine Brewer. She not a spinto soprano, but most definitely a Dramatic Soprano, and she could sing the great Ocean Aria from "Oberon" without any difficulty. Unfortunately, she is also a very large woman who could never dramatically and physically carry this role off on the stage. Rarely does she appear in staged opera because she's so large. Luba Orgonasova has a completely different type of voice. She's a lovely lyric soprano, and the role of Rezia in "Oberon" would tear her voice to shreds. If you go to You Tube and type in "Oberon-Ocean Aria", you'll surely see what kind of voice is called for. There are versions by Maria Callas, Birgit Nilsson, Gertrude Bandernagel, Leonie Rysanek, Kirsten Flagstad, and possibly a few others. THOSE are true Dramatic Sopranos. A Dramatic Soprano is a voice that must be able to either soar over an orchestra - or cut through it. Christine Brewer can do it because she's a true Dramatic Soprano, but Orgonasova would be committing vocal suicide if she ever attempted it. Have you ever heard this aria? The vocal demands are tremendous and few and far between are the voices that can accomplish it.

Posted on Apr 8, 2014 12:01:40 AM PDT
An Chloe says:
I heartily recommend Sir Elliott Gardner's live recording made in Edinburgh, with the fantastic Jonas Kaufmann as Huon, singing virtually the best Huon EVER.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 10, 2014 6:40:27 PM PDT
March boy says:
I went to YouTube and listened to this ocean aria sung by Nilsson, Callas and Gundula Janowitz. I don't think it sounds very hard--it's mostly just simple legato phrases in the middle of the voice until it gets faster towards the end and there are a couple phrases that jump between high and low notes really quickly that sound a little tricky. But you seem to know a whole lot more about music and the voice than I do so I'll take your word for it.

Maybe Marisa Galvany could have pulled this role off? Check her out on Youtube. Her vibrato is a little too heavy for some of those fast florid passages in the bel canto arias posted but she has a really rich, deep, robust beautiful sound and terrific high notes about the High C. Listen to her Medea in Corinto posts--absolutely amazing!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 10, 2014 10:15:26 PM PDT
L. Mitnick says:
March Boy:
Take my word for it -- it's a holy terror to sing. The voice that does it must be HUGE, with a strong low register, the ability to hurl out declamation with force - yet be able to sing legato. The final section is a beast - with a huge top B flat, a repeat going up A flat, and then a gut buster of a high C at the conclusion. The aria is rarely performed anywhere. Callas auditioned with this aria at the age of 15!! She continued to sing it in concert, but probably should have stopped singing it before she did. Still, she made a hell of an impact with the power of her presentation. For Birgit Nilsson, it was a natural. And of course, Kirsten Flagstad sang it as well (before she lost her top C). Few and far between are there voices that possess the power and authority to do this "Ocean" aria. Today, the only soprano I can see doing it is Christine Goerke.
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