Das Liebesverbot

Wolfgang Sawallisch
Chor und Orchester der Bayerischen Staatsoper München
9 July 1983
Nationaltheater München
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
FriedrichHermann Prey
LuzioWolfgang Fassler
ClaudioRobert Schunk
AntonioFriedrich Lenz
AngeloKieth Engen
IsabellaSabine Hass
MarianaPamela Coburn
BrighellaAlfred Kuhn
DanieliRaimund Grumbach
DorellaMarianne Seibel
Pontio PilatoHermann Sapell

In 1983 Wolfgang Sawallisch was beginning his tenure as the new intendant of the Bavarian State Opera which also happened to coincide with the Centenary of Wagner’s death. To mark the occasion Sawallisch opted to honour the composer with something unexpected: a new production of the very rarely performed Das Liebesverbot. The production opened on the exact anniversary date of Feb. 13, 1983 with a spectacular staging by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle: for the first time in the opera’s 147 year history the opera was a huge success with audiences and critics alike. This recording derives from the Bavarian Radio’s transmission of a performance with the same cast that occurred a few months after the premiere.

One can easily hear influences of Weber, Lortzing, Donizetti and Mercadante in this opera. Wagner was attempting to blend German and Italian styles. That very blend makes this a difficult opera to cast as the music calls for voices of Wagnerian amplitude but they must also display flexibility to deal with sprinklings of coloratura display. The much-put-upon heroine, Isabella, is a case in point. This is a very big sing for the soprano to deal with; it calls for the voice-type of a Senta or Leonore in Fidelio. Sabine Hass does a most admirable job and gains the sympathy of the listener. While she is not ideally steady, she has some very powerful moments of penetrating tone, and in her indignation during the Act One Finale, she spits fire to the assembled populace.

Her imprisoned brother Claudio is sung with heroic, mellifluous tone by Robert Schunk; however, he is one of the singers who trips up from Wagner’s occasional forays into coloratura. The sympathetic friend Luzio (who gets to marry Isabella in the end) is sung with some moments of strain by Wolfgang Fassler. Pamela Coburn’s voice projects well, if not with especially sweet tone, as Marianne, the long, suffering wife of the Governor. Marianne Seibel’s Dorella is spirited but she has a few vocally edgy moments. Alfred Kuhn is a sonorously comic Police Chief, Brighella.

The best performance of all comes from Hermann Prey as Friedrich,the hypocritical Governor of Palermo. His powerful tone and stage presence lend dominance to this puritanical character. There is an accumulation of vibrancy to his upper register that at times threatens to overwhelm one’s audio equipment, but the overall beauty of his voice is really something to revel in. His long aria in the Second Act is a true highlight of this set.

Wolfgang Sawallisch conducts with an agility that is animated and engaged throughout this long score. The Bavarian State Opera ensemble seems to relish the challenge of the unfamiliar piece and throw themselves wholeheartedly into the carnival atmosphere of the proceedings. The sound of this live recording is more than adequate, although not so splendid as on the aforementioned Oehms set, from the wonderful Frankfurt Alter Oper concert hall. Here the onstage antics of the carnival ensure that there are plenty of stage noises throughout. A generous amount of applause has been left in, from which it is clear that the Munich audience was very enthusiastic about the entire event.

Mike Parr | MARCH 5, 2024

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Orfeo, Elite Classics
Technical Specifications
611 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 678 MByte (flac)
Recorded at the Münchner Opernfestspiele 1983
A production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (1983)