Most of César Franck’s works received scant attention at the time of their composition and Hulda, like his other three operas, was never performed in his lifetime so it has an important place in late nineteenth century opera.
Although complete at the time of his death, it was only three and a half years later that a sadly mutilated version was performed in Monte Carlo where it lasted three days and it did no better elsewhere, so it was forgotten.
However, Franck’s music, somewhat reminiscent of Wagner whom he greatly admired, portrays raging clans, bloodthirsty murderers and shattered lives, but also moments of exquisite tenderness in this acclaimed revival of a forgotten masterpiece that places the role of Hulda among the great tragic stage heroines.
The narrative is set in 14th-century Norway at the time of the great tribal kings, with marauding hordes spreading fear and terror throughout the land. Hulda is kidnapped and transferred from one tribe to the other, her family is killed and she herself is humiliated. However, Hulda’s spirit cannot be crushed, and she survives with revenge as her goal in life.
The cast is lead by award-winning American soprano Meagan Miller with a compelling stage presence and her interpretation of Hulda shines through. The Freiburg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Fabrice Bolton gives a pleasing rendition of this fascinating piece.
Reviewer: Paul Foss