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Médée in award-winning Cherubini edition

(May 2008)

First performances in Vienna and Brussels of Cherubini’s Médée in the new Critical Edition by Heiko Cullmann have been attracting rave reviews for this radical reappraisal of an operatic masterpiece. The importance of the edition was recognised when the new performance materials won the 2008 Opera award from the German Music Publishers’ Association, presented at the Frankfurt Music Fair in March.

Musical America described how Médée has been revealed afresh and successfully reclaimed: “The orchestrations are heroically symphonic, the vocal writing masterful whether in aria or ensemble, and, at just under two hours in Heiko Cullmann’s new critical edition, the opera makes for taut, compelling theatre.”

Though Maria Callas did much to popularise Médée in the bel canto manner, the Süddeutsche Zeitung criticised her adopted Italian version which “hardened this work, composed by a fundamentally Francophile Italian, robbing it of smoothness, colours, nuances, charm. There were also a large number of cuts and alterations in the 16 large-scale numbers which are seldom plausible – including three within orchestral pieces brimming with excitement. Particularly disturbing were Lachner’s recitatives which, stylistically questionable, bring an untheatrical fussiness with them and clearly hinder the effectiveness of the individual numbers…”

“Cullmann’s rightly award-winning version removes all these alterations. Now, a sharp, budding piece of music theatre emerges to excite the audience, for which the generic concept opéra-comique is intended – as much for Médée as for Carmen. However, above all, in the Callas recordings of Medea the classical performance style seems bloodless and empty. In Brussels, with Christoph Rousset and his orchestra Les Talents Lyriques, experts in historical performance present the Cullman version for the first time, and already by the F minor overture, this results in a storm of passion breaking the bounds and rules of convention.” Süddeutsche Zeitung

"A stroke of luck for opera fans... the Vienna production has the quality to unleash a renaissance... Cherubini has found a new musical language, on the one hand building on the traditional, serious operas of Gluck, yet with spoken dialogues and an orchestral score of almost symphonic proportions, entering new, Romantic regions."

"It’s good to have this Medea version (1797) here once again... There is scarcely a moment in which the tragédie lyrique isn’t simmering."
Wiener Zeitung

As well as Médée, Cherubini’s Les Deux Journées (The Water Carriers) had a profound influence on Beethoven, when its model treatment of the genre of rescue opera sparked ideas for Fidelio. This opera has now been reconstructed for the Simrock Cherubini Edition, was successfully staged in Rheinsberg in March, and is now available for performance by other opera companies.

For further information on performing operas in the Cherubini Critical Edition contact your nearest Promotion Department:

> Further information on Work: Médée

Photo: Medee at the Theater an der Wien (Credit: Armin Bardel)

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