Thursday, 5 April 2012


Genoveva. DVD. zurich 2008. Prod: Martin Kusej. Conductor: Harnoncourt. Cast: Juliane Banse (Genoveva), Martin Gantner (Siegfried), Shawn Mathey (Golo), Cornelia Kallisch (Margaretha), Alfred Muff (Drago).

When Robert Schumann moved to Dresden in the 1840´s he got acquainted with Richard Wagner, who rather bluntly told him that he thought the libretto for Genoveva  was rubbish. Obviously this strained their relations for a while, though Schumann greatly admired Wagner and was quite influenced by Lohengrin, which in fact had it´s world premiere in 1850, the same year as Genoveva. Apparently, the rather negative reception of Genoveva dissuaded Schumann from trying to write another opera and Genoveva thus remains his only opera, only sporadically performed, even today.

Based on the medieval legend of the faithful wife Genevieve of Brabant, who are entrusted to her husband´s squire Golo, while Siegfried, the husband goes away, the plot evolves around Golo´s love for Genevieve including lies, betrayals and the obligatory witch. With a happy ending.

Allegedly, Robert Schumann did not want to create an action-filled work, but rather tableau's of various moods, and indeed it is the static nature of the work, which poses the greatest challenge to the listener.

Not at all helped by Martin Kusej´s production, which, for once, seems to miss the mark: A white room. A chair. A sink. The four protagonists remaining on stage throughout. An allegory to the repressive society structures behind the apparently blissful world of Romanticism, which eventually leads to revolution, Martin Kusej says. Interesting on paper, much less so in the theater.

Fine singing from the leading quartet, Martin Gantner a noble Siegfried, Shawn Mathey a torn Golo, Juliane Banse a strong and righteous Genoveva with Cornelia Kallisch a somewhat shrill Margaretha.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt has been a champion of the work for decades and it seems only right that he´d conduct which is the world premiere DVD recording. Though not even he manages to infuse some drama into Genoveva.

Genoveva production trailer:

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Juliane Banse: 4
Shawn Mathey: 4
Martin Gantner: 4
Cornelia Kallisch: 3

Nikolaus Harnoncourt: 3
Martin Kusej´s production: 3

Overall impression: 2

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