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Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Der Rastelbinder (The Tinker) (1902)
Operetta in 2 acts with dialogue
Fritz Muliar, (tenor) - An onion peddler
Hans Kraemmer, (baritone) - Glöpper, a tinsmith
Helga Papouschek, (soprano) - Mizzi, the tinsmith's daughter
Elfie Hobarth, (soprano) - Suza, a servant girl
Heinz Zednik, (tenor) - Janku, the tinsmith's boy assistant
Adolf Dallapozza, (tenor) - Milosch, a corporal
ORF Choir and Vienna Mozart Boys Choir
ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hans Graf
Recorded at ORF Radio studios, Vienna, Austria, November 1981. ADD
CPO 777 038-2 [73:38 + 62:38]

 

CPO continues to show admirable enthusiasm for issuing the works of Lehár. Der Sterngucker (The Stargazer) was issued in Spring 2003 and now along comes this performance of his first operetta. It is a recording of a large-scale radio broadcast made 25 years ago.

The work was staged as a Christmas piece at Vienna's Carl-Theater in December 1902. Despite poor initial reviews its strong cast managed to achieve a long run for the piece. Incidentally, the conductor of the première was the young composer, Zemlinsky. Der Rastelbinder travelled through Europe and reached America in 1909, but now is largely forgotten.

The plot concerns a Slovak child engagement, with children who find it difficult to get on together when grown up. A Prelude is set 12 years earlier than the main action to provide a vehicle for the audience to be given background information of the childhood betrothal. The Prelude and Acts shift the action from Slovakia to Vienna and then to a Viennese army barracks. The settings allow Lehár plenty of scope to introduce different flavours of music appropriate to the action. In this early operetta, we hear, for the first time, a slow waltz that indicates the distinctive viennese style that was to follow and become a Lehár hallmark, 'Wenn zwei sich lieben' [CD2 tk.4]

Helga Papouschek and Elfie Hobarth sing confidently as Mizzi and Suza and the young tinker boy (uncredited) provides a purity of tone, naïvety and innocence. Both Heinz Zednik (the grown up tinker boy) and Adolph Dallapozza (corporal) are strong tenors, the latter having a particularly high register. But to me this is a performance that needed to be seen to be fully appreciated. The unmusical Pfefferkorn (Fritz Muliar) performs more like a Maurice Chevalier and does not come over well in his numbers on the second CD: it becomes an irritation when one can only focus on an aural picture.

The recording has good acoustics and balance, though chorus diction could be better.

The booklet is provided in German, English and French and contains interesting background notes by Stefan Frey as well as a synopsis for the vocal numbers.

Raymond J Walker



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