Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Ralph BENATZKY (1884-1957)

LíAuberge du Cheval blanc (The White Horse Inn) operetta
(with dialogue, in French)
Bourvil, Andrine Forli, Michel Dens
René Ducios Choir
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire/Félix Nuvolone
Rec. Paris, 1962
EMI 7243 57407021 [CD1 48.46 CD2 47.33]

Amazon France 95,84 FF / EUR 14,61


In its original 1930 form, Im weissen Rössi (The White Horse Inn) played to Berlin audiences for a respectable 416 performances. From Benatzkyís German original the work was adapted both for the French and British stage. The White Horse Inn was one of those shows with a very dynamic existence. One of the most famous numbers to English-speaking audiences, 'Goodbye' wasn't in the original score but was added by Stolz for the London production. This song was originally known as 'Adieu, mein kleiner Gardeoffizier'.

In Britain, The White Horse Inn became a favourite with amateur operatic societies up to the 1960s. Its immediately accessible music and simple, trivial plot were perhaps the secret of its success. Some of the numbers in the Chappell vocal score were altered from the original German and it is the Chappell edition which is used for this recording. Certainly, Leopold's number 'Zu'schaun, kann inett' only gets a brief hearing in one of the finales of the Samuel French/Chappell version.

Ralph Benatzky, is little heard of and indeed the CD notes donít help. He came from Moravia (Czechoslovakia) and conducted at a Munich theatre in 1910. He went on to write songs and music for cabaret (in Vienna) and a new genre revue-operetta of which White Horse Inn is the best remembered. His forte was in arranging, and the preceding work, Casanova (1928), was basically an adaptation of melodies from Johann Strauss IIís music. (My research does not reveal any professional training in music composition and judging from his light-weight output this seems unlikely.) Casanova was well received by the public and paved the way to The White Horse Inn. Although also extremely successful, Benatzky cannot take all the credit for he didnít write all the musical numbers. Lubbock's Complete Book of Opera, tells us that additional numbers were written by Bruno Granichstaedten, Robert Gilbert, Robert Stolz and Hans Frankowski. Benatzky/Stolz orchestrations if used in this recording tend to lack substance and their texture is generally thin, but one has the feeling that the arrangements used are post-war.

An overture is replaced by an extended prelude despite what the track notes tell us. From my memory of stage performances in England in the 1960s, the British (Samuel French/Chappell) editionís prelude to Act 1 was quite magical, a sort of Peer Gyntian daybreak with birds twittering (flutes playing the yodelling singing line which exists in the French version). The opening then gathers momentum and eventually breaks into the maidsí duet. But in this French recording there is much strident pseudo-Tyrolian yodelling from the start, which severely interrupts the flow of musical romanticism. The French arrangement may work well on stage but since the yodelling is harsh the British version is musically superior. EMIís brief notes do not explain the situation except to state that the Chappell edition was used for the recording. Throughout there are some good chorus numbers, particularly the medley and reprise concerning a change in the weather. If the track list is correct and matches the French version it seems strange that Act I ends on a duo with swinging rhythm rather than the natural break after the reprise and weather chorus which provided a Busby Berkeley style finale to Act I in the British edition. The EMI listing has this item listed as the third number in Act II.

Of the soloists Andrine Forli (Josépha) has a light lyrical style perfectly suited to the part. But Bourvil (Leopold) is another matter: someone who may have an excellent stage presence will not necessarily come over well in a recording, and this is the problem. Kurt Gänzl reckons that to hear Bourvil on the French recording is 'to hear musical comedy at its most irresistibleí, but I donít agree. Gänzl reckons that this recording of 'L'Auberge de Cheval blanc' is superior to any of the German recordings for this reason. Bourvilís voice maybe strong, but it is not musical. He is reminiscent of a Maurice Chevalier whose singing was marred by a thick resonant timbre. Since he sings in many of the numbers his choice for the recording is a disappointment. The castís other supporting singers are good and welcome: of these, Jacques Herrieux (Emperor) and Michel Dens (Florès) are memorable. Dens sang in EMI Pathéís later production of Véronique in 1969. His rich warm tone with elegant phrasing and strong delivery ideally fits the part. At times the chorus sounds barely adequate because diction is woolly and consonants at times totally missing (this may have been caused by poor miking, though.)

It helps to be able to follow the French dialogue (though this is tracked separately so that a CD player may be programmed to play the music alone). Good sound effects add realism to the piece where stage sounds are heard and sleighs retreat into the distance.

This 2 CD set is a reissue of LPs released in 1962. The transfer to CD is acceptable but very different from the superb quality of La Fille de Madam Angot in the same series which was recorded a decade later.

However, EMIís track indexing is poor, where the end of previous tracks are often clipped. With this mid-price issue, no notes are included.

Further reading: "Operetta", Traubner (Oxford); ĎMusicals", Gänzl (Carlton)

Raymond Walker


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