Excerpts from Mendelsohn's opera "Camacho's Wedding" this week on The Lyric Stage.
"Camacho’s Wedding may well be the most brilliant opera written by a youthful composer,” brilliant and inspired music, but "an opera to be seen with your eyes closed." So says the Belgian conductor Jos van Immerseel about Camacho's Wedding, Felix Mendelson's 1827 opera in two acts. Friedrich Voigt gets credit for the libretto, which is based on an episode in Don Quixote. It is one of the two full length operas Mendelson wrote before he was twenty years old, to go along with the four finished one acts which he completed before he was twenty. Camacho's Wedding premiered in April of 1827, and is Mendelson's only opera to be publically performed in his lifetime. It was a disaster for the18 year old composer. In spite of friendly audience reaction, Mendelssohn did not like the performance, so he left in the middle of the second act, and cancelled further performances. Some reviews were harsh, and a few were even antisemitic. The experience soured him on both opera and journalism.
No one has paid much attention to Camacho's Wedding, since. There was a performance in 1852 and again in 1987. When Jos van Immerseel says it is "an opera to be seen with your eyes closed," his point is to underline the reason for the opera's neglect, the libretto. This libretto, about a young women in love with a young man but betrothed by her father to an old man is the same story dozens if not hundreds of other operas have used, and not a very good take on the worn out plot at that. von Immerseel feels that even seeing a good staging "would not add that much" to the enjoyment of the music. So he says “ignore the story and listen to what may well be the most brilliant opera written by a youthful composer."
This week we have selections from a recording von Immerseel conducted in 1992, with soloists and the orchestra Anima Eterna performing with period instruments.