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David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2013

With Liszt, Raff and Lachner included among his mentors, it seems strange that the once highly valued works of Anton Urspruch have long fallen into total oblivion. Born into a Frankfurt theatrical family in 1850, his comic opera, Das Unmoglichste von Allem (The Most Impossible Thing of All), was considered his life’s masterwork and enjoyed much success in his lifetime. The libretto, that was also devised by Urspruch, relates the victory of The Queen in battle and her sending off of her warriors to woe beautiful women. She tells her nobleman, Roberto, that it is impossible to keep watch over a woman whose mind is set on love, and when he states that he can safeguard his sister, Diana, from male predators, she places a wager that he will fail. To make this reality she gives her young member of court, Lisardo, the task of proving him incorrect. For his part, Roberto places his servants, Celia and Fulgencio, to guard Diana, even to the extent of keeping curtains closed so that she cannot be seen. But servants can be bribed and a picture of Lisardo is smuggled to Diana. Then things become complicated when Lisardo does actually fall in love with her. You might well guess the ending when the lovers are united and The Queen can pronounce that in love, guarding a woman is the most impossible thing in life. Though we are led to believe that Urspruch wanted to avoid any connection with the music of Wagner, the music is stylistically a mix of Weber, Mendelssohn, Wagner and a few fleeting moments of Verdi. Often taxing on the solo voices, Urspruch also had a desire to move away from arias and duets, yet managed to fill the work with both. For all of its limits, the music is attractive, the orchestral writing showing a composer of undoubted ability. This, so the release informs us, is the first complete performance and was staged in September 2012, the recording an unedited performance. When the American soprano, Rebecca Broberg, is on stage as The Queen, the performance is in good shape, and also coming from the States, Anne Wieben, makes a pretty voiced Diana. I am also much taken by the Celia of Caterina Maier, a singer surely born for operetta. Taking most of the honours is the Orchestra of the Sorbian National Ensemble, a very fine ensemble conducted by the much experienced Israeli conductor, Israel Yinon. A well-balanced sound, the full libretto with an English translation available on the Naxos website. © 2013 David’s Review Corner

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