Looking back on his first stagework, Richard Strauss called it »an apprentice piece by a fully fledged Wagnerian, seeking out his own path to full musical independence«.
It is easy to detect the influence of Richard Wagner in »Guntram«, even while the young composer is striving to step out from under his idol’s enormous shadow. Even the heroic title, an amalgam of Gunther and Wolfram, has a Wagnerian touch. The hero of »Guntram« is a member of a secret society who unwillingly kills the tyrannical Prince Robert. But was this really an act of self-defence, or was the minstrel acting upon his admiration of Freihild, the prince’s unhappy wife, whom Guntram previously stopped from committing suicide? As he is not able to deny this suspicion, even to himself, Guntram renounces Freihild. However, instead of submitting to the judgement of his secret brotherhood, he withdraws into self-imposed isolation. The medieval scenery, the themes of redemption through renunciation and Guntram’s notion of personal responsibility, as well as the musical forms and orchestration, clearly point to the original source of Strauss’s inspiration. Only a few performances followed the premiere in 1894 of the composer’s first endeavour in the field of opera. Still performed occasionally in concert form, Semperoper audiences now have a rare opportunity to enjoy this early work.
An opera in three acts Concert performance sung in German
Der alte Herzog: Georg Zeppenfeld
Freihild: Marjorie Owens
Herzog Robert: Markus Butter
Guntram: Jürgen Müller
Friedhold: Simon Neal
Des Herzogs Narr: Aaron Pegram
Eine alte Frau: Christa Mayer
Ein jüngerer Mann: Tomislav Lucic
Erster Vasall: Evan Hughes
Zweiter Vasall: Tilmann Rönnebeck
Dritter Vasall: Peter Lobert
Ein Bote: Pavol Kubán
Men of the Saxon State Opera Choir