Composition: Das Lied der Nacht
Performers: Soloists, Osnabrück Symphony Orchestra/Andreas Hotz
Catalogue Number: Add
Hans Gál’s third opera, Das Lied der Nacht (The Song of the Night) opened to raves in Breslau in 1926, but the rise of Nazism, Gál’s flight from Germany and imprisonment in the UK as an ‘enemy alien’, disrupted a promising career. This 2017 performance by Osnabrück Music Theater is the first time Das Lied has been recorded.
Set in 12th-century Sicily, with a libretto by poet Karl Michael von Levetzow, the opera tells of princess Lianora, who – resisting pressure to marry her ambitious cousin Tancred, seeking instead to enter the convent – falls in love with a mysterious song she hears at night.
Gál’s colourful score paints a magical, psychological world, which Andreas Hotz renders vividly with the Osnabrück Symphony Orchestra. Lina Liu sings Lianora with a steely soprano, but her aria Was ist gewesen? (What has happened?) – over anxious, dreamlike glittering in the orchestra – sees it soften. Gritt Gnauck brings an authoritative mezzo to the ‘stony Abbess’, while baritone Rhys Jenkins is an intense Tancred and Ralph Ertel brings a heroic tenor to The Nameless Singer. Soprano Susann Vent-Wunderlich is lady-in-waiting Hämone and bass-baritone Oliver Weidinger is the Chancellor.
There are great moments: Ertel’s ‘song of the night’, against lute-like strings, is a highlight, as is the Prelude to Act II. Well worth a listen for anyone interested in a lost treasure of 20th-century opera.