Rhinegold Photo credit: Monika Rittershaus
Sara Jakubiak as Heliane in Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane

Francis Muzzu

DVD of the month: Das Wunder der Heliane

10:13, 21st August 2019

Das Wunder der Heliane – Korngold

Deutsche Oper Berlin 

Naxos 2.110584-85

Review by Francis Muzzu

This Naxos DVD gives us the opportunity to enjoy an opera that embodies a late burst of Romanticism – in fact rather too late, as it was well-received at its premiere but then sank into the social Siberia of the operatic unfashionable.

Korngold considered Das Wunder der Heliane to be his masterpiece, and it saw the light of day in 1927 in Hamburg. This production, by Christof Loy, was filmed at a major revival at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin last year. And it is a massive work – absolutely ginormous. Though fabulously realised as a production, this is where I part company from the majority, as I find its symbolist story of love, sex and redemption a pile of twaddle, and Korngold’s music, though often gorgeous, is just too much of a good thing.

In an interview on the Deutsche Oper’s website, Loy says: ‘At key moments of the opera…we’re all wishing for it to go on and on forever’. Boy, have I got news for him. But his production is admittedly riveting, focusing closely on the three main characters, and placing them in a simple paneled hall.

Sara Jakubiak’s Heliane is stunning, her soprano and acting encompassing the role’s considerable demands of range, scale and emotion, and she is brave enough to appear naked when required, which really does help make sense of the story. Brian Jagde’s Der Fremde (Stranger) is tenorially stentorian and detailed, and Josef Wagner’s Der Herrscher (Ruler) equally impassioned. If anyone can pull this sprawling piece together it is conductor Marc Albrecht, and the orchestra and chorus are outstanding.

Das Wunder der Heliane is available on DVD and blu-ray from Naxos records

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