Jonas Kaufmann and Isabel Rey – A Prince of Music and his Princess
After achieving instant and lasting success with his fairy-tale opera "Hänsel und Gretel" in 1893, Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921) repeated this success in 1910 with his three-act opera "Königskinder" (Royal Children), which was premiered at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1910. Even Toscanini and Puccini were impressed. With its lush harmonies and glowing orchestral colors, its superb vocal writing and timeless, universal story, one wonders why the work isn't performed more often today.
In this recording from the Opernhaus Zurich, there are essentially three factors ensuring the rehabilitation of this work for the operatic repertoire: Jonas Kaufmann, Isabel Rey and Ingo Metzmacher. As the royal prince who feels the calling to do great things in life and wants to prove himself worthy of his throne, Jonas Kaufmann has more to offer than his warm, powerful tenor voice. His magnetic stage presence claims our attention yet blends harmoniously with the lyrical and luminous soprano voice of Isabel Rey. As the Goose Girl who is kept prisoner by a witch and falls in love with the prince, Rey finds happiness, death, and a part that seems to have been made for her. Together, the two form a magical couple.
Eliciting outstanding playing from his orchestra is Ingo Metzmacher, who supplies a reading that is rich and opulent, yet refined and precise. He rehabilitates a score that proves to be a well-balanced mixture of folk-like tunes, Sprechgesang, sweeping symphonic gestures and leitmotivs that recall Wagner – which is not surprising considering that Humperdinck revered Wagner and worked closely with him on his "Parsifal." Stage director Jens-Daniel Herzog conveys a variety of atmospheres with slight transformations of a basic room. Also outstanding are Liliana Nikiteanu's Witch and Oliver Widmer's Minstrel. A world-class production of an immensely pleasing late-romantic opera!
"Jonas Kaufmann and Isabel Rey must be two of the most thrilling artists to be found on the opera stage today. Rey and Kaufmann in tandem are musical magic" (Opera Today)