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The Sunday Opera: E.T.A. Hoffmann's "Undine"

In one version of the story, Undine returns to avenge her betrayal by flooding the ballroom before dragging her unfaithful husband down to the world of the water spirits. Since flooding an opera stage may be a bit difficult, our version today ends a bit differently.

We’re happy to be bringing you the music of E.T.A. Hoffmann on this week’s Sunday Opera, and we hope that you’ll join us for another pleasant afternoon.

Ernst Theodore Amadeus Hoffmann is undoubtedly best known to modern audiences for his wonderfully imaginative stories like his “Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” but on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/5 3:00 p.m.), we’ll be looking at E.T.A. Hoffmann the composer in his 1816 opera “Undine.”

The story of “Undine” was that of the opera’s librettist, Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, and is somewhat familiar in a “Little Mermaid” sort of way.

Undine (Heidrun Plesch) is the foster-daughter of a fisherman and his wife (Michael Albert and Maria Hiefinger), who had lost their own daughter sometime earlier, and is also a water nymph and daughter of Kuhleborn (Brend Hofmann) who is the king of the water spirits. Undine wants to marry and be loved by a human so that she will attain a soul which she will keep until her love is renounced.

She falls in love with Huldbrand (Johannes Beck) who is on a quest to prove his love for Berthalda (Barbara Baier) who is the adopted daughter of the local Duke and Duchess (Achim Shramberger and Corinna Tippe). The Duke and Duchess are told that Berthalda is actually the daughter of the fisherman and his wife, and they are appalled by her lowly birth and disown her. Huldbrand and Undine, who have been married, take pity on Berthalda and take her into their home with disastrous results.

In this recording you’ll hear the Bamberg Youth Orchestra and Bamberg Oratorio Choir with Hermann Dechant conducting.

We’ll stay in the fairytale world after the opera with Sir Arthur Bax’s wonderful Nympholept, a tone poem about a traveler walking through an enchanted forest, and Friedrich Kuhlau’s orchestral suite from his incidental music for “Elvenhoj” (“Elves Hill”) the first nationalistic Danish play about a king who a mystical “night woods” of dancing wood spirits and their friends.

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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