Manfred Op. 115, Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann began working on Manfred, Op 115 in the mid- 1840’s. The piece escaped proper classification, featuring an orchestra, a chorus, and vocal soli. Plagued by auditory hallucinations at the time, Schumann managed to weave melodies and harmonies that gave Manfred an otherworldly quality, which persists to this day. The premiere took place on 14 March 1852 in Leipzig, as part of the Gewandhaus concert. Teatro dell’Opera di Roma’s orchestra, choir and soloists give Schumann’s Manfred a modern performance in Rome that will remind audiences of this hidden gem’s greatness.
The source text for Manfred was the dramatic poem of the same name by Lord Byron. Completed in 1817, it revolves around a titular character tormented by a fatal mishap in his past that resulted in the death of a loved one. Manfred attempts a Faustian deal by summoning seven different spirits and asking them to help him forget the event that does not give him peace. After none of them can help, the hero chooses death over redemption, striking a powerful individualist pose before committing his soul neither to hell nor to heaven. A tale of the supernatural and the superhuman, Byron’s poem inspired composers and philosophers alike. For Schumann’s famous musical setting, Richard Fohl provided the German libretto, heavily based on the English original.
Originally titled Manfred: Dramatic Poem with Music in Three Parts, the performance opens with an Overture, which is also the most famous excerpt from the piece. An entracte and a melodrama section with several choral and solo vocal pieces follow. Together, they paint a fantastical picture of the constraining world, in which the titular character lives. Schumann’s outlandish, evocative score captures both the inner drama of the individual and the supernatural themes that bear heavily upon the action. At Rome’s Teatro Costanzi, a classic gothic horror story comes to life on the wings of Schumann’s musical imagination and on the tip of Lord Byron’s razor-sharp quill.