Sonderbar ist deine Jugend . . .Mit der ersten wahren Mutter

This is the section from Act I in which Marie expresses misgivings about Jenik’s shadowy past and Jenik explains how his stepmother forced him from his home; the two reiterate their pledges of love to one another. In the background you can see the heart-shaped cookie on a ribbon, waiting for its moment to shine.

What I liked about this is that it’s sincere without being weighty or sentimental – this is as much a quality of the music itself as of the performance. I particularly enjoyed the second section of the duet, beginning at around 9.30 or so, where the tenor part has the melody and the soprano part the harmony.

You may notice that the subtitles are kind of hit and miss, in the sense that sometimes they are there and sometimes they are not. (In general there are some slightly off moments with the subtitles on this DVD – e.g. in Act III at one point someone says that Jenik’s subterfuge was “knot cheating, but only a trick” and later on the chorus threatens to “sing and shout and raffle.” My German is rusty, but based on a cursory reading of the German text for that scene, I think this has to be a mistake, although a strangely apt one given the story. Obscure vocabulary note: did you know that in addition to the usual meaning, ‘to raffle’ can also mean ‘to quarrel’ or ‘to indent or serrate a leaf’ or ‘to crumple [something] up’? I don’t think the chorus is going to do any of those things, but one of the great things about opera is that all kinds of unexpected stuff can happen on stage.)

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