King Arthur in Music

Camelot Comeback In Spain

Albeniz with Daughter Laura in 1905, 3 years after completion of Merlin

Merlin [BOX SET]
Isaac Albeniz (Composer), Jose Eusebio (Conductor), baritone Carlos Alvarez (Performer), tenor Placido Domingo (Performer), soprano Jane Henschel (Performer)

BBC/Opus Arte has released on DVD the world premiere production of the complete version of Merlin, Isaac Albeniz's opera. The DVD received a rave review in Opera News (October 2004)

Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909) is best known for his piano works, and especially for the collection Iberia, 12 piano suites of technical infusing Spanish folk idioms with his hero Franz Liszt. At the turn of the century, he tried very hard to establish himself as an opera composer. Living in London, he composed three operas in collaboration with Money-Coutts, of which Merlin was the most ambitious. It was intended as the first part of a huge trilogy of Arthurian legends, loosely based on Malory's Morte d'Arthur. Albeniz died while working on the second installment, Launcelot, and never began the third, Guinevere. The only portion of Merlin that he heard performed during his life was the opening orchestral prelude. The full score languished until 1950, when it was staged, much cut and sung in Spanish, in Barcelona. Recently it appeared on disc, with Placido Domingo singing the part of King Arthur. The success of the Placido Domingo disc led to the Teatro Real production. Depending upon which critic is quoted, the production is either achingly archaic and amateurish or a rave. Money-Coutts as the librettist, under the spell of Wagner, produced prose that in the archaic olde English chosen, seems too flowery and rhymed to enjoy. The music tries to capture the spirit of Wagner with Spanish overtones especially in the third act. 

Online news From thestatesman.net --Meriel Wisotsky
   Madrid, May 30, 2003. -- Camelot, the court of King Arthur, has been rediscovered in Madrid. To give an exact location, it is in the Teatro Real, where an expectant house has been thrilled by the world premiere of Merlin, the "lost" opera of Isaac Albeniz.

David Wilson-Johnson as Merlin at Teatro Real, Madrid
David Wilson-Johnson as Merlin at Teatro Real, Madrid, 2003