A woman in love, a vampire fighting eternal damnation and a tested friendship. The story of Der Vampyr has all the melodrama of a 19th century Twilight, set to the haunting melodies of an early Romantic composer.
Opera Australia and More than Opera are presenting Der Vampyr as part of the Melbourne Ring Festival.
We asked the conductor and presenter Dr David Kram to give us the low-down on this rarely performed work.
Der Vampyr. Sounds spooky. What’s it all about?
There are three stages of ‘being” (1) Humans (2) Vampires (3) Ghouls. Lord Ruthven (Christopher Hillier) has been a vampire for a year but he risks sliding into being a ghoul for ever unless he can find three female victims within twenty-four hours.
Things get complicated when potential victim number three turns out to be the girlfriend (Malwina – Taryn Fiebig) of Ruthven’s mate Aubrey (David Corcoran). The problem is that Aubrey, poor soul, stumbled upon Ruthven’s dark secret and made a promise not to divulge it to the world, lest he too become a vampire.
Another problem is that Malwina’s father Davenaut (Richard Anderson) thinks that Ruthven would make a better husband for Malwina than the hapless Aubrey.
All this is ripe fodder for an array of arias and ensembles, with a rustic chorus swinging their beer-mugs along the way.
Who should come and see it?
I would say music-lovers who like tuneful melodies and will enjoy the lovely voices of our eight soloists and an old-fashioned curiosity that was a hit in Germany during the Bel Canto period. Think of it as a nice concert with some quirky anecdotes, eminently suited to the elegant surroundings of the Melbourne Recital Centre.
This performance is billed as a lecture concert. What does that look like?
Easy! Part One = Act One – Interval , Part Two = Act Two. I provide some linking narration and commentary – and play the Vampire Master. Another interval – then I will give a talk on Marschner and Wagner (and others). Did you know Wagner actually conducted a performance of Der Vampyr in Würzburg when he was just 20?
What is the music of Der Vampyr like?
If Weber and Lortzing got married, Marschner would be the son – except that Marschner wrote his operas before Lortzing! Just as composers like Richard Strauss found it hard to shake off the Wagner ‘genie’ so did composers of Marschner’s ilk knowingly or unknowingly pay homage to the composer of Der Freischütz (1821). Three things characterise this work:
(1) Lots of diminished sevenths – as befits a ‘horror’ opera
(2) Folksy tunes
(3) Some interesting harmonic progressions which jump around unexpectedly – we musicians can’t take for granted what comes on the next page!
What do I need to know?
This is a one-show-only gig, presented as part of the Melbourne Ring Festival by Opera Australia and More than Opera.
Sunday, December 8, 3:00-5.30pm.
Melbourne Recital Centre, Dame Elizabeth Murdoch Hall
Bookings: Click here or call (03) 9699 3333
Sung in English. (Translation of Wilhelm August Wohlbruck’s Libretto by Paul Drayton and Keith Sparrow of Duchy Opera, Cornwall.)
Who is involved?
Conducted/presented by Dr David Kram
Accompanied by Siro Battaglin (Opera Australia/Cologne Opera)
Opera Australia soloists:
Taryn Fiebig, soprano (Malwina)
Victoria Lambourn, mezzo-soprano (Emmy)
Richard Anderson, bass (Davenaut)
David Corcoran, tenor (Aubrey)
Christopher Hillier, baritone (Ruthven)
Gisele Blanchard, soprano (Janthe)
Tiriki Onus, bass-baritone (Berkely)
Robert Barbaro (Georg)