Now that I have finally got to know Wolf's Der Corregidor I can't easily account for its neglect. There are some operas by great composers in which fine music has to struggle against handicaps of various kinds. In Smetana's Dalibor the libretto is turgid and static, and in Schubert's Fierrabras or Dvorak's Rusalka the libretto is the far side of awful. With Schumann's Genoveva the main problem is that Schumann's theatrical sense was nonexistent. Nothing of this kind applies to Der Corregidor so far as I can tell. I do not mean by that that either the book or the score is perfect, and there are some thoughtful and illuminating reflections about both in the liner booklet. I mean simply that the shortcomings of neither are very serious, whereas the music is downright superb. I would happily invite all music-lovers who do not already know Der Corregidor to join me in discovering it from this fine set if you can find a copy, but I ought to say first Be careful what you pay. I am seeing some fancy prices being asked.
In my experience Wolf is more admired than popular. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf pronounced him the greatest of Lieder writers, and his appeal seems to be mainly to musical cognoscenti. If this reputation has gone before him, then you should get a pleasant surprise with Der Corregidor, because the music is melodious as well as distinguished, and it all seems to work very well as a drama and as a comedy. It purports to be in 4 acts, but the second act is really two acts in my opinion, separated by a lengthy entr'acte. The main `problem' was apparently with the ending. This was originally overloaded with undramatic explanations, and although Wolf accepted this criticism and shortened his finale, the producers here have tidied it up still further, quite sensibly from the sound of it. Similarly they have reverted to the shorter opening sequence in Act III and done without the composer's intended improvement adding 46 bars to the passage. Otherwise I find the plot perfectly clear, although no doubt both composer and librettist show some signs of inexperience. One oddity is not remarked on, and it that the corregidor (a Spanish magistrate) is a tenor role, while the real hero, the miller Tio Lucas, is a baritone. Nothing wrong with that of course even though the corregidor is the `villain' - witness Rigoletto. The peculiarity, to me at least, is in naming the work after this villain.
If your German and your eyesight are good, you should have no problem in following what is being sung. The libretto is given in German only in a booklet of its own, and the print is so small that I have had to blow the dust off my light-assisted magnifying glass. However what I soon found was that I did not need the libretto except now and again. The synopsis of the plot in a second booklet is not only in clear print it is so clearly expressed that a listener can understand the action from it without the full text. You can relate the scene-numbers to the track-numbers from the back of the box, (indeed that is the only source of this information), and the liner essay will do the rest for you. In fact this is one of the best liner notes I have ever seen, despite a few idiosyncrasies. The background data is informative, the critical but sympathetic commentary is intelligent, the summary of the plot I have already mentioned, and the English translation is genuine English and not translationese. I only wish it had all told me somewhere who wrote this material in its original German.
Another individual feature is that we are not told which singer takes which part, and that makes this identification quite a challenge, the cast-list being quite large. When choosing from the small range of alternatives I picked this Corregidor on seeing the names of Helen Donath and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau among the performers. Well, there is only one baritone role, and surely we should be able to recognise Fischer-Dieskau anywhere, so that allowed me to make a start on the identification conundrum, but I confess candidly that I have got no further with it. This is largely because I have very few problems with the performance of any of the roles, and consequently have no interest in attaching name-tags. The singing is excellent, both technically and dramatically, and if there was the occasional moment of suspect pitch there usually is in any work this long. In the nature of the case I have nothing to compare this version with, and I am only too grateful for what I have got. The recording dates from 1985, and again I have no complaints. It may not be spectacular, but there is no reason why it would need to be. The Berlin orchestra do their bit splendidly too, and the small choral contribution sounds fine as well.
So now I shall not die ignorant of Der Corregidor. I reflect that 50 years ago it was nearly impossible to come across any Handel operas. The reasons for that seem pretty silly now, and the obscurity that has befallen Der Corregidor may be just a random fluke. All the same, something tells me that its authorship has a bit to do with its neglect. I can quite understand that, say, Wolf's Italian Songbook does not caress the ear like the Schubert's Mill Songs, but if you choose to take my word for the matter you will experience no similar need for adaptation to Der Corregidor. You may or may not get many opportunities, so I should say take any that come your way.