Hans Pfitzner: Palestrina
Requiring 38 soloists, chorus and large orchestra, Hans Pfitzner’s Palestrina is a challenging opera to stage. In Munich, the city in which it was given its world premiere in 1917, director Christian Stückl and the Bavarian State Opera met those challenges with unequivocal success. Stückl’s production infuses such colour and life into this morally and philosophically serious work that even the German tabloid Abendzeitung delightedly wrote: “Who would have thought that Pfi tzner could be such fun?” Written in a lush late-Romantic idiom, the opera tells how Palestrina, in the face of anti-musical decrees from the Church, composes his great Missa Papae Marcelli and becomes ‘‘the saviour of contrapuntal music’’. The imposing Christopher Ventris as Palestrina heads an outstanding cast.