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The Sunday Opera: Karl Goldmark's “Die Konigin von Saba” (“The Queen of Sheba”)

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A few weeks ago, we featured Karl Goldmark’s “Merlin” on The Sunday Opera. This week (5/8 3:00 p.m.), we’ll feature another, possibly his best-known work, “Die Konigin von Saba” (“The Queen of Sheba”), which had its world premiere in 1875 after nearly a dozen years in creation. The story is based loosely on the biblical texts found in First Kings and Chronicles. Here, the queen whose real name was Makeda gets involved in a love triangle with disastrous consequences for the other two “points” of the triangle.

Makeda arrives in the court of King Solomon, as in the bible, but on the way there, she met Assad who was on a diplomatic mission for the king, and Assad, like many before him, immediately fell madly in love with her. Once at court, Makeda denies ever meeting Assad which drives him further towards madness. Assad is affianced to Sulamith, the daughter of the high priest, and Makeda’s presence turns the court upside-down and ruins Assad’s reputation. In the end, Assad is banished and wanders into the desert where he is found by Sheba who commands him to come to her. However, Assad is beyond help and rebuffs Makeda who then leaves. As Assad nears death, he declares his love Sulamith who then appears. She has followed him into the desert to die with him, and the opera ends with their love duet.

The cast includes Katerina Hebelkova in the title role, Nuttaporn Thammathi is Assad, Irma Mihelic is Sulamith, and King Solomon is Karoly Szemeredy. The remainder of the cast includes Jin Seok Lee as the High Priest, Kim-Lillian Strebel is Astaroth, Makeda’s Slave, Kevin Moreno is Baal-Haanan, the Palace Overseer, and Andrei Yvan is the Voice of the Temple Guardian. Fabrice Bollon conducts the Opera and Extra choirs of the Freiburg Theater, the Vocal Ensemble of the Frieburg City University of Music, and the Freiburg Philharmonic Orchestra.

We’ll complete the afternoon with more music of Goldmark including his Overtures to Sakuntala and Jugendtagen (From the Days of Youth), both performed by the Bamberg Symphony also conducted by Fabrice Bollon.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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