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Orff: Prometheus

Orff: Prometheus

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What Carl Orff created with the Prometheus score is neither an opera in the traditional sense nor an oratorio, but also not a play with music or even “authentic” classical tragedy: far more is it an extremely individual musical interpretation of Aeschylus’s tragedy that concentrates primarily on the symbolic imagery of the scenes, which – as Orff himself said – “is accentuated and visualized by the music” and the spectator and hearer thereby enlightened.

The work is sung in Ancient Greek; the booklet contains a plot synopsis in English and German languages, plus liner notes.


This CD of Carl Orff's Prometheus, released on the Orfeo label, is based on live recordings by Bayerischer Rundfunk from October 1st and 2nd, 1975 in the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residenz. Two concert performances were recorded, which took place in honor of Orff's 80th birthday. Of all the events held in Munich to mark the composer's milestone birthday, these two were considered the greatest. But that's no wonder, because the work, which was successfully premiered on March 24, 1968 at the Stuttgart State Opera, is a real masterpiece. Here we are dealing with a real rarity.

The very informative booklet shows that Orff did not in any way claim that this was an educational theater for the initiated, but only drew the consequences from the mythical power of language of Aeschylus. Orff's decision was good. The ancient Greek language gives the whole, both sung and declaimed passages, an extremely strong, haunting expression that is typical of this type of musical theatre. Ultimately, Orff was concerned with capturing the spirit of ancient theater by evoking it again with thoroughly modern means, with the aim of interpreting it anew and for our time (booklet). Orff has completely succeeded in this. His intention has worked in every respect. The impact of Prometheus is even greater than that of his predecessors, Antigone and Oedipus, previously written by Orff. Particularly impressive are the fully sung prophecies of the eponymous hero chained to the rock as well as the choruses, which are only entrusted to women. These breathe enormous intensity and lead the listener away from a normal opera to a new form of music theater for which Orff was the godfather.

Although the orchestra with the brilliant percussion, which is only joined by wind instruments and double basses, is not very pronounced, its outbursts are nevertheless powerful...Rafael Kubelik succeeds in exploring the diverse and quite unusual musical structures. Under his proven leadership, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra has surpassed itself. The conductor relies on a distinctive, rhythmically concise and often almost violent sound that corresponds excellently to the content of the work.

The singers put themselves entirely at the service of this great piece. The first to be mentioned here is Roland Hermann, who impressively proves that even a modern game like Prometheus can be mastered with a fantastic Italian technique. His beautiful baritone manages the balancing act between expressive singing and pathetic declamation magnificently. In her own way, Colette Lorand comes up with a very complex portrayal of the role of Io Inachis.

Conclusion: An interesting recording of an unusual work, the acquisition of which is definitely to be recommended.

-- Das Opernfreund

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 2
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Orfeo
    • UPC/Barcode: 4011790526027
    • Item Number: C240012