The Sunday Opera: Two Delightful Fantasies: "Duke Magnus and the Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast"

Jan 31, 2019

Magnus Vasa (1542 – 1595)

We’ll be traveling into the world of fantasy for this week’s Sunday opera (2/3 3:00 p.m.) with delightful works from Sweden and Germany by two self-taught composers.  We’ll begin with “Duke Magnus and the Mermaid,” an 1867 opera by Ivar Hallstrom whose composing credits are relatively few but important because of his use of Swedish folk music.  

“Duke Magnus” is based on a legend about Magnus Vasa (1542 – 1595), a Swedish prince and the Duke of Ostergotland who was the third son of King Gustav.  Magnus, who began showing signs of mental illness at the age of 21, believed in mythological creatures including fairies and mermaids.  The opera, based on a folk-legend that Magnus threw himself into the castle moat to be with the mermaid who lived there, centers around an older, fictitious Magnus who believes a local fisherman’s daughter is the mermaid calling to him from the bottom of the local lake.   After a great deal of intrigue, there is a happy ending.  The cast includes Lars Johansson as Duke Magnus with Niklas Willen conducting.  Our second fantastical opera comes from Louis Spohr and his charming 1819 treatment of “Beauty and the Beast” performed by members of The Manhattan School of Music Opera Theatre with Christopher Larkin conducting.