Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)
Die schöne Galathée
- operetta in one act - original version (1865)
Galathée - Andrea Bogner (sop)
Pygmalion - Hans-Jürg Rickenbacher (ten)
Ganymed - Juliane Heyn (sop)
Mydas - Michael Kupfer (bar)
Chor des Theaters der Stadt Koblenz/Bernhard Steiner
Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie/Thomas Eitler
rec 29 Feb-3 March 2000, Koblenz
CPO 999 726-2 [48.42]

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Apart from the irritation of having a single disc in a double width 'coffret' this has all the exhilaration and charm indispensable to success. The overture, once well known to legions of classical LP and 78 collectors, is not likely to be quite so familiar now and it comes up fresh as a dazzling coat of varnish.

The story is one of an age-old pattern which continues to find its ways into opera, film and other artistic media. If the Orpheus legend has prototypical power then so does the tale of the sculptor/inventor whose statue (usually of a woman) is brought to life, often freed of moral reference points and behaving naturally to the pleasurable disturbance of audiences who warm to the libertine references as well as to outrage. Most of the context of outrage has now fallen away meaningless we are left with the not inconsiderable charm of von Suppé's music articulated without dilution or filter. That charm is built on firm Mozartian and Straussian foundations. In turn Lehár and Korngold carried forward the tradition.

How delightful that this Koblenz team seem so consistently engaged by the music. Ganymed's childlike duetting with the magically distanced choir in track 2 is just one example. The choir is well placed in the audio picture - try also Preghiera und Duett (track 5) though Rickenbacher might be feeling the strain in the high-lying passages. Kupfer's Mydas handles the tongue-twisting virtuosic aria Meinem vater Gordios with the stylish confidence of Mozart's Leporello - in fact the 'himmlisches' exemplar of Mozart puts in a regular appearance. Both soprano roles have a challenging time of it and Bogner is not quite as smooth and fresh as Heyn. Charm is plentifully on tap and Bogner's birdsong melisma is a delight. While there is no dearth of effervescence neither is dreamy enchantment in short supply. The overall effect, which might pall over 90 minutes, retains its brilliance over the concise span of just short of 50 minutes. Of course at this length the work makes uncomfortable programming for the opera house. For the 'gramophone' its conciseness is perfect.

For sampling try the Galathée-Ganymed duett - Ach, mich zieht's zu dir (track 10). If you are apt to be won over by this music this will do the trick. If not then, traveller, pass on.

Fine notes, plot summary and German (the language sung) with parallel English translation.

Rob Barnett

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