Three-time Grammy nominee Boston Baroque, under the direction of Martin Pearlman, has recorded an entertaining double bill for Telarc featuring the world premiere recording of The Beneficent Dervish (Der Woltatige Derwisch), a long-forgotten comic opera written for the Viennese theater by members of Mozart's circle in the last year of the composer's life. Dervish is the second of two rediscovered Singspiels that shed light on Mozart, his circle, and the fairy-tale opera tradition that culminated in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute. Boston Baroque won international acclaim in 1998 for its premiere performances and recording on Telarc of the first of these discoveries—The Philosopher's Stone (CD-80508)—a collaboratively-composed Singspiel that is now making its way into the international repertory. Both these comic, fairy-tale operas were rediscovered by eminent North American musicologist David J. Buch.
Featured soloists for The Beneficent Dervish are internationally acclaimed lyric tenor John Aler making his Boston Baroque debut; Sharon Baker, soprano; Deanne Meek, mezzo-soprano; Kevin Deas, bass-baritone; and Alan Ewing, bass.
Paired with Dervish is the premiere recording on period instruments of Mozart's sparkling one-act spoof on the music business in the late eighteenth century, The Impresario (Der Schauspieldirektor) on period instruments. Brimming with wit and a lyric beauty that belies its lighthearted libretto, The Impresario tells the story of a competition between two dueling divas, Madame Heart and Madame Silvertone, sung here by sopranos Cyndia Sieden and Sharon Baker. Tenor John Aler sings the role of the high-minded Herr Birdsong, and baritone Kevin Deas sings Buff the Buffo.
In September of 1790, the Theater auf der Weiden in suburban Vienna produced the first of a series of fairy-tale operas written by its director, Emanuel Schikaneder. That work, The Philosopher's Stone, was originally produced by the same company of singers that only one year later produced Mozart's masterpiece The Magic Flute.
The Beneficent Dervish is the second in that series of operas from the Viennese theater. It has long been thought to date from after Mozart's death and therefore to have no influence on The Magic Flute. But Professor Buch has found evidence to show that it was performed in March of 1791, exactly midway between The Philosopher's Stone and The Magic Flute.
"Musically and dramatically, The Beneficent Dervish is a lighter work than its companions," says Pearlman in the liner notes for this recording. Dervish has more spoken dialogue and less music than the other two Singspiels, and no lengthy finales—only short arias, choruses, and instrumental numbers, some of which are repeated two or three times throughout the work.
Both The Beneficent Dervish and The Impresario are sung in German.