The story is a true story based after the Munster inncident taking place during the 1500s at the Anabaptist beginnings (Anabaptists eventually became Mennonites, named after a prominent Anabaptist reformed Menno Simmons [who reacted to the inncident at Munster that the opera tells about... if Anabaptists were coming to this, I can see why reform was needed] and then later the Amish broke from the Mennonites). The city (Munster) became Anabaptist, but was so far from it.
Unfortunately, this opera only depicts those Anabaptists the city contained, and could likewise give listeners a very skewed image of the Anabaptist beliefs. Basically, whatever was done in the city during the opera, Anabaptists didn't believe in except adult baptism. During the opera a variety of sins occured such as polygamy, murder, and deception by false prophets. Anyone who resisted the prophets were killed. Eventually the city became desperate for food due to the siege taking place outside of the city led by both Protestant and Catholic forces. One Anabaptist in the city opened the gates for the forces at the end of the opera. The forces came in and slaughtered many and took prisoner the false prophets who were then paraded around Europe and eventually killed.
This inncident the opera is based after completely misrepresented Anabaptists (not to be confused with Baptists who were a Protestant sect). The evil that occured in the city was an excuse for the Protestants and Catholics to kill many true Anabaptists who practiced nonresistance and love for their enemies.
The music itself certainly set the mood of unrest. Sometimes though I felt there was a severe lack of music in the orchestra as if the composer went lax on his job. I also felt that there was not enough actual singing. Quite a bit of the opera just consisted of yelling and speaking.
Another turn off to the opera of course was the libretto provided, which was only in German without a translation. However, the very long synopsis followed so closely the actual dialouge that I'm wondering why the synopsis just wasn't made into a translation of the libretto.
The opera is very hard to listen to and it definitely makes you twist in your seat. It's very nerve wrecking and disjointing. If you are not willing to tolerate this, I would not recommend buying this opera. I just bought it because I'm a Mennonite myself and was curious to see this Anabaptist opera.
The orchestra that plays this piece is, ironically enough, the Munster Symphony Orchestra (I wonder if Will Humburg or any of the vocalists are indeed polygamous violence-crazed 'Anabaptists' that only seem to be tame performing artists).
I do thank NAXOS for putting forth this CD in the 21st Century Classics and other CDs in this catagory.