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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Operetta Arias.
Richard HEUBERGER (1850-1914)

Im chambre séparée (Der Opernball)
Carl ZELLER (1842-1898)

Ich bin die Christel von der Post (Der Vogelhändler)
Schenkt man sich Rosen in Tirol (Der Vogelhändler)
Sei nicht boss (Der Obersteiger)
Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)

Einer wird kommert (Der Zarewitsch)
Hoch, Evoe, Angele Didier (Der Graf von Luxemburg)
Heut noch werd ich Ehefrau (Der Graf von Luxemburg)
Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß (Giuditta)
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)

Nuns Chorus (Casanova)
Karl MILLÖCKER (1842-1899)

Ich schenk mein Herz (Die Dubarry)
Was ich im Leben beginne (Die Dubarry)
Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)

Hab ich nur deine Liebe (Boccaccio)
Robert SIECZYNSKY

Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Ackerman.
Great Recordings Of The Century
1950s? ADD
EMI CLASSICS 5 66989 2 [44.45]

 

Here are three questions:

Why is so much operetta written in three-four time, waltz time and, therefore, rhythmically limited and impoverished?

Why is it that when people sing operetta they sing completely differently, particularly with those stepping up to or stepping down from notes which sounds so cheap and as if the singer is uncertain of the note itself? And that awful portamenti....

Why does operetta sound cheap and inconsequential compared to grand opera or lieder?

The author of the notes has one answer. The style of singing in operettas has always been associated with the art of seduction. In other words it is sexy singing and therefore on some parallel with pop music today which, in the main, is sex to music.

Well that may be taking it too far.

But if there is to be a style in singing operetta who decided on the way it is sung and sung for perpetuity?

Is it that musicals of today or of comparatively recent years were the operettas of yesterday? Does Lehár's Graf von Luxemburg have the same ingredients, design and purpose as Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma?

I think the answer lies in the distinction between singers and entertainers. Frank Sinatra was not a good singer particularly in later years. He could not sing in tune and so I cannot class him as a singer but he was a magnificent entertainer. I went to his concert in London and it was superb. I cannot think of a pop singer who is always in tune but some have a tremendous ability to entertain but they are certainly not singers. This is why so much pop music has extra notes before and after the one written in the hope that the singer might get it somewhere in the melismata.

Pete Waterman, a pop record producer, said on national television that writing a pop song was the hardest thing in the world to do. So, as an example, I suppose Bruckner writing his amazing and mammoth Symphony no 8 was easy!

But we must not be snobs. There is good music is almost every field. Duke Ellington and King Oliver in jazz were giants, Bessie Smith and Billy Holliday were magnificent in blues. Ella Fitzgerald was a star, Alex North and Jerry Goldsmith unequalled in film music and some music hall songs were very accomplished (and some rather rude) and so on.

None of the composers represented here were great composers. Far from it. Suppé is the best of the bunch and his overtures such a Light Cavalry, Poet and Peasant and Boccaccio are good in their own genre. But he was only really popular in Vienna. He did not compose any work of consequence. But Boccaccio, which I would have termed an opera, is a love story whereas all the other operettas are seedy or sex comedies. Heuberger's The Opera Ball is a tasteless sex comedy, Carl Zeller's Birdseller is about tangled relationships, Lehár's Der Zarewitsch is apparently about feminism and The Count of Luxemburg is about an impoverished nobleman who is to marry for money and has never seen his bride until the wedding. Johann Strauss the Second's Casanova is about the depraved sexual philanderer presumably out to corrupt Laura before she enters the convent. Millöcker's operetta is about a mistress of Louis XV.

All pretty seedy stuff and by composers who were useless at writing quality music. For example, Lehár tried to write sonatas and a violin concerto which are dire. But it is only light music and of little consequence. And there some musicians who cannot aspire to the real stuff. Willy Boskovsky would not conduct Brahms or Stravinsky and thank goodness for that.

But this music is fun at times and mildly diverting and it suits many people who, perhaps, cannot take quality music and are content with this entertaining fun.

The performance of the Nuns’ Chorus is attractive with the chorus parts and the tolling bell but the Viennese portamenti are irritating. Carl Zeller Don't be cross is a fun piece but too slow and the best item on the disc is Robert Sieczynsky's Vienna City of my dreams which was composed by a Polish composer, not a Viennese one, and it is the best vocal waltz I know. But it is also too slow.

Schwarzkopf varies her voice within items. For example, in the Nun's Chorus she is at one time a little girl or a young lady with a purity of voice and innocence and then a voluptuous belter of a singer. It does not make sense.

As occasional listening and music which needs no thought it will be entertaining but not very durable.

David C F Wright


see Great Recordings of the Century

 



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