When Cäcilie Avenarius, Richard Wagner’s sister, saw the pile of coins on the table of Richard’s apartment in Paris – altogether the princely sum of 500 francs – she could first breath a sigh of relief about her impoverished brother’s condition. It was 1840. The money was a down payment from publisher Maurice Schlesinger for a commission which must have seemed like the bitterest punishment for such a highly creative, ambitious composer like Wagner. Schlesinger had asked the young man to prepare various arrangements of Gaetano Donizetti’s new opera La Favorite – a piano score, a piano score without words for two hands, one for four hands, arrangements for string quartets, for two violins, and for cornet à pistons. Wagner’s precarious financial situation dictated that he accept this offer immediately, and he produced what had been requested. Such pieces were, of course, not meant for the theater, but for playing at home – in all possible instrumentations, in small circles of friends as well as in elegant Paris salons. Wagner used his talent to create a sort of miniature ‘talking book’ of Favorite, which this CD presents in an exotic version for two violins. Daniel Morgenroth, suc-cessful theater and television actor, guides the listener through the most important stations of La Favorite with his narration.Daniel Morgenroth
Daniel Morgenroth was born in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg in 1964. After attending
the polytechnical secondary school, he started training as a theatre carpenter at the Berlin Comic Opera in 1981. On completion of this vocational training, he became a stage set assistant at the Metropol Theatre Berlin.
Daniel Morgenroth took up studies in acting in 1986, after completing his alternative national service as a construction units soldier. He graduated in 1990 and found employment at the German Theatre Berlin where he stayed until 1999.
Amongst many other roles, we will list the most important ones: Templar in Nathan the Wise; the title role in Peer Gynt; Siegfried in Kriemhild‘s Revenge; Count Wetter vom Strahl in Das Käthchen von Heilbronn; the title role in Amphitryion; Achilles in Penthesilea; Mortimer
in King Edward.
In addition to writing a libretto – Die Leichenoper (The Corpse Opera), performed in Berlin and Schwerin and recorded for television,
Daniel Morgenroth made his debut as a director at the State Opera Unter den Linden in 1997 with Die Entdeckung des Vaters bei gemäßigt leichter Gartenarbeit (The Discovery
of the Father During Moderate Light Garden
The artist can refer to activities as a singer, too – with the „Salon Orchester Illusion“ and the programme „Aus alten Märchen winkt es (Beckoning from Old Tales)“ – songs and
melodramas with Kammersänger Jochen Kowalski (2000).
Until now, Daniel Morgenroth had a number of engagements as a speaker in orchestra works, e.g. in Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg, in Beethoven‘s music for Egmont with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jac van Steen or in Mendelssohn‘s Midsummer
Night‘s Dream with the Berlin Philharmonic
Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy.
In 1999, he guest-performed at the New York Carnegie Hall with the Berlin Philharmonic
Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Daniel Morgenroth has been a freelancer since 2000 and already took on a number of roles in films and on television.
Michael Dißmeier is an opera director, dramatic adviser and author. After completing
his degree in music theater direction in Hamburg in 1994, he worked in theaters in Potsdam, Lübeck and Weimar.
In addition to staging and directing major operas (e.g. Verdi’s Troubador and Smetana’s Bartered Bride at the German Nationaltheater of Weimar in 2004), he specializes in digging out and producing long-forgotten baroque operas. In 2001 he staged Veracini’s As you like it (conductor: Reinhard Goebel) and in 2002 Galuppi’s The inverted world or rulership by women.
In addition to numerous dramatic editions
(e.g. Mann und Frau. Das Italienische Liederbuch von Hugo Wolf. DNT Weimar, 2003), he also writes stage texts (Carmen. Eine Recherche – UA 1999, Burghofbühne Dinslaken), essays on the aesthetic effects of contemporary opera performances and reviews (including for the taz and the Hamburger
A rich work from the depths of bitterest poverty
When Richard Wagner reached Paris on September 17, 1839 at the age of twenty-six, he hoped to achieve quick fame in that metropolis. The events of the following
two years, however, turned out to be a complete disaster. Despite a recommendation that Giacomo Meyerbeer had written for him, Wagner found no admittance to important musical circles and scraped by, unhappy and poor, among German expatriates. He worked in fits and starts at Rienzi, planned a several-movement “Faust”-Symphony, of which he only finished one movement, the Faust Overture
and set several French poems to music. Unfortunately, no one was really interested in the latter. Wagner’s correspondence with Meyerbeer gives us glimpses of how indigent he truly was; his tone in these letters is pleading,
self-abasing to an embarrassing degree: “I will be a true, sincere slave – because I openly admit that I have the nature of a slave in me.”
In March 1840, Meyerbeer finally persuaded
the management of the Renaissance Theater in Paris to perform Wagner’s opera Das Liebesverbot. This was the theater in which Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor
had had its first French performance the previous year. Euphoric, Wagner rented an expensive apartment; he now saw himself on the verge of acceptance as a composer, almost with the same stature as a Donizetti. The first news which reached Wagner in his new apartment, however, was that the Renaissance
Theater had gone bankrupt. All his financial means were exhausted. He now survived
only due to contributions from German patrons, the subletting of his apartment and the degradation of his wife to a hotelkeeper.
In the next months, Wagner occasionally wrote prose for the music publisher Maurice Schlesinger and his “Gazette musicale”. In winter 1840, Schlesinger asked Wagner to correct the proofs of the score of Gaetano Donizetti’s opera La Favorite, which had premiered
on December 2nd. This offer was followed
by a commission to write a complete piano score, piano scores without voices for both two and four hands, a complete arrangement
for string quartet, for cornet à piston as well as the edition for two violins which this recording is based on. Wagner received a fee of 1100 francs for his effort. It seems that Schlesinger greatly exploited the dire financial
straits of the German composer, because Wagner found out six months later that other composers earned much more money for such work. After finishing Favorite, Wagner received commissions for similar arrangements
of the opera Le Guitarrero by Jacques Fromental Halévy, which premiered on January
We have a later comment by Wagner himself on his time as an arranger: he compelled
himself to complete “…in the penitence
of breathless devotion this so humiliating
but only helpful work.” The weeks Wagner
worked on Donizetti’s score are certainly among the darkest of his life. He heated only one room in his apartment and left the house as seldom as possible. The contrast between the mature score of the epochal Italian composer’s
eighty-fifth (!) opera – a score fraught with Italian sun and passion – and the facts of Wagner’s life at the time could not have been larger. Donizetti had occasionally lived in Paris since fall 1838 and had adapted his operas Poliuto
and Lucia di Lammermoor for the French stage, revised Roberto Devereux, completely reworked Le duc d’Albe, the Daughter of the Regiment and finally, La favorite. Paris was ecstatic. Donizetti was productive because he was successful. Oblivion, as in Wagner’s case, led to depression and stagnation.
It would be folly to read any Wagnerian characteristics into these arrangements. This CD presents music of Gaetano Donizetti. Wagner
created competent and sparkling arrangements
for the salons of Paris – but this work meant nothing more to him than forced labor, even though still impresses us today. We hear, one after the other, the important scenes from a major dramatic opera, here humorous, there energetic. Wagner has created a miniature ‘talking book’ of the Donizetti Opera.
Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler