Ulf Soderblom

Wilhelm Peterson-Berger: Domedgsprofeterna [Highlights]

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Swedish composer Wilhelm Peterson-Berger (1867-1942) wrote five operas, the fourth of which, Dromedagsprofeterna (The Doomsday Prophets), received its premiere in 1919 and has had some success in Sweden. The opera, for which the composer wrote his own libretto, is a convoluted love story set in the seventeenth century and involves a wager about the end of the world. The central dramatic dilemma centers on university hazing (involving much alcohol) that results in the hero's academic suspension. But not to worry -- Queen Christina passes through town and makes all things right -- it is a comedy, after all.

Since the work is through-composed and doesn't have easily extractable discrete sections, the selections, taken from a complete recording made for radio broadcast, are faded in and out. The idiom is thoroughly romantic, with a light touch appropriate for the subject, and the orchestration is transparent and imaginative. Peterson-Berger has an obvious knack for writing for the stage; the musical architecture is derived from the drama without being merely illustrative. His vocal writing is idiomatic and lyrical, but is rarely memorably melodic. The performances are uniformly fine; this is very much an ensemble opera rather than a showcase for stars, and each of the performers contributes solid singing and vividly etched characterizations. The singers, with the assistance of Ulf Söderblom leading an elegant and supple performance by the Swedish Symphony Orchestra, are persuasive in putting the opera across as a comedy. The sound quality is clear and balanced, and high production values generate the ambience and energy of a staged production.

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