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This is the second opera entitled “Flammen” that I’ve discussed,
and while the characters and plot points are different for this
work, both Franz Schrecker (1878-1934) and Erwin Schulhoff
(1894-1942) experienced persecution at the hands of the
Third Reich.

This “Flammen” by Erwin Schulhoff is another “resurrection,”
courtesy of the folks at Decca. Composed between 1924 and
1929, it was set to a Czech libretto that was translated into
German. Its premiere in Czech was given in 1932. Stylistically,
it runs the gamut between Impressionism, Neo-Classicism,
Cabaret, and a bit of Jazz.

The story is basically a surrealistic fantasy on the Don Juan tale,
and indeed, passions come to the fore! As mentioned in the
accompanying booklet, the laws of action and theater become
irrelevant here, and the orchestra is given a very important role
with numerous interludes. In fact, the orchestra is the real
“hero” of this recording, providing a fantastic sea of sound.

That said, tenor Kurt Westi’s portrayal of Don Juan is heroically
sung, and soprano Jane Eaglen sounds magnificent in her
multiple roles of Donna Anna, the Woman, and Marguerite.
Iris Vermillion’s rich mezzo-soprano voice is fine as La Morte,
and bass Johann-Werner Prein is notable as the Commendatore.

Only one performance of this opera was given in the Czech Republic
city of Brno during 1932, thereby making this world premiere
recording an important event, given the fascinating nature of
this polystylistic work. John Mauceri does a fine job of leading
the orchestra and soloists. According to the accompanying notes,
Maestro Mauceri included as much of the music as possible from
Schulhoff’s original score. “Flammen” was released by Decca
as a part of their Entartete Musik series in 1996.

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