One of the great ‘might have beens’ of the opera world is Franz Schubert. The composer of some 600 songs, he had a melodic gift and understanding of the human voice unmatched by any composer before or since. Although he had acquired a mastery of symphonic form, a suitable librettist for opera escaped him. Of his 19 operatic projects (the manuscript pages of some were inadvertently used by a servant to light a fire!), only Fierrabras of 1823 clung to the fringes of the repertoire, not being performed complete until 1980 in the US. Schubert always believed that operatic success was essential for his reputation.
The singspiel Die Freunde von Salamanka dates from 1815 when the composer was just 17, and was his seventh opera. The libretto was by Johann Mayrhofer, best remembered as the poet Schubert set into song some 47 times. The dialogue is now lost, but the slight love story is provided with customarily sunny and delightfully tuneful music by Schubert. This opera had its premiere in 1928, a full century after the composer’s death.
‘Beautiful singing by Mathis … Hermann Prey in excellent form … lovers of Schubert should not let slip the opportunity of hearing this … it is affectionately directed by Guschlbauer.’ Gramophone
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