Lortzing’s Regina in Meiningen

When did you see a 19th century opera which began with a strike in a factory? Probably never. But Albert Lortzing, better known for his comic pieces, notably Zar and Zimmerman, wrote such a piece, Regina, apparently influenced by the 1848 revolution. It is a curiosity and very rarely performed. It suggests some sympathy with the demands of the working classes but opposes violence and ends with a call for Freedom and, somewhat anomalously, patriotic fervour for the Fatherland. One might have expected a modern revival to draw out parallels in contemporary society. But the current staging at Meiningen by Lars Wernecke abjures anything with political bite and his traditional production is a tame affair:  the revolutionary terrorists, for example, lounged around as though enjoying a weekend outing. Lortzing’s score combines his usual melodic gracefulness with some harder, more intense, passages. It was executed with assurance by the Meiningen Hofkapelle under Lancelot Fuhry. With the exception of a forthright, imposing performance by baritone Matthias Vieweg in the role of Stephan, the soloists were a disappointing bunch. Had indulgence for an indisposition been requested for tenor Daniel Szeili as the hero, I could have understood; as it was….