Ein Wintermärchen review: Warmest emotional indulgence on offer

Wexford Festival Opera: The opera is more engaging in the moment than as a whole

German tenor Burkhard Fritz brings Heldentenor fervour and intensity to the paranoid Leontes

German tenor Burkhard Fritz brings Heldentenor fervour and intensity to the paranoid Leontes

 

Ein Wintermärchen

National Opera House, Wexford
★★★☆☆
Karl Goldmark’s Shakespeare-derived Ein Wintermärchen (A Winter’s Tale) is the only opera from this year’s Wexford Festival Opera that dates from the 20th century. It’s the only one to be restricted to a concert performance. And it’s also the warmest emotional indulgence on offer.

Goldmark was 77 when, in January 1908, his musically backward-looking Ein Wintermärchen was first heard with Bruno Walter conducting at the Hofoper in Vienna. And, in spite of Covid-19 restrictions, Matthias Bucher’s edition retains a real sense of orchestral luxuriance under conductor Marcus Bosch. 

Georgian soprano Sophie Gordeladze is affecting but uneven as Hermione. Photograph: Lasha Bakuradze
Georgian soprano Sophie Gordeladze is affecting but uneven as Hermione. Photograph: Lasha Bakuradze

German tenor Burkhard Fritz brings Heldentenor fervour and intensity to the paranoid Leontes. Georgian soprano Sophie Gordeladze is affecting but uneven as his wife, Hermione, murdered at his behest only to be magically revived 16 years later.

The tale of banishment and re-acceptance has Irish mezzo-soprano Niamh O’Sullivan as a stalwart, anchoring force, regally impressive in the small role of Hermione’s friend, Paulina. And Australian baritone Simon Thorpe is rock solid as Polixenes, the friend of Leontes who unintentionally triggers the opera’s tragic events.

Irish soprano Ava Dodd is rather icy but vocally impressive as Leontes’s daughter Perdita, though German tenor Daniel Szeili’s blustery delivery lowers the appeal of her love interest, Florizel.

The opera itself is more engaging in the moment than as a whole, with the final act dotting too many I’s and crossing too many T’s on its way to resolution. The light, rustic scenes of the second act also seem like too extreme a diversion from the work’s overall thrust. If that would all work out differently in an actual production is something we still don’t know.

Goldmark’s Ein Wintermärchen is performed again on the afternoon of Sunday, October 24th, as part of Wexford Festival Opera. The festival runs until Sunday, October 31st.

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