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Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Der Sterngucker (The Stargazer) (1916) - Operetta in 3 Acts
Lothar Odinius, (tenor) Franz Höfer, Astronomer
Claudia Rohrbach, (soprano) Kitty Höfer
Henna Dóra Sturludóttir, (soprano) Lilly Moos
Robert Wörle, (tenor) Paul von Rainer, Baron
Markus Köhler, (baritone) Nepomuk, Herr Popper, Herr Moos, Herr Rahmberger
Angelika Bomber, (soprano) Mizzi, Frau Popper
Alexander Bröer, (alto) lsolde, Frau Rahmberger, Frau Moos
Rosenstock und Edelweiß Singspiel in 1 Act (1912) - Overture
German Chamber Academy of Neuss/Johannes Goritzki
DDD. SACD (Surround Sound)
CPO 999 872-2 [37:54 + 47:36]


The appearance of this rarity has been eagerly awaited and now enthusiastically discussed on the Operetta website. Although there is a certain amount of doubling up of characters, this does not detract from the enjoyment of the work.

The operetta opens with an atmospheric introduction. Trembling upper octave notes on piano and violins give a simple yet appropriate sound-picture of the heavens. It serves as texture for Kitty's opening number and Franz's ballad, A summer's day on the shining sea where it obviously depicts the shimmering sea.

The story is slight and takes place in a girls' finishing school. A school ball with a Damselfly dance is an occasion for the girls to parade their charm to prospective admirers. One of the girls, Lily, is engaged but already her fiancé has his eyes on a girl in the opera! The commonsense Lily decides that he must find her another man if they are to break off the engagement. So commences an involved yet trivial plot. An innocent Franz becomes involved with Lily. Kitty's father, an astronomer, considers that Franz is a stargazer who needs to wake up to the realities of life, hence the title.

Quite a few musical numbers are set in waltz time, but one in particular appears with regular monotony throughout the operetta.

I should have liked a little more bounce and vitality to some of the numbers. Although graceful and sensitively delivered some sound rather sleepy. The score is not the best Lehár has written. The finales never gather momentum to round off an act and no chorus is involved. Yet the work is not uninspired; and certainly the performance has merit. The singers are confident in their roles and sing with true tenderness in their lovey-dovey relationships. Claudia Rohrbach has a timbre to her fine voice that is rather mature for the age group she is portraying. Robert Wörle at times seems uncomfortable delivering his top notes in My young Lady, I can't say it.

This is a 'Surround Sound' disc and the effect of enhanced realism works successfully. The recording is superb with mellow orchestra and voices not too forwardly positioned.

The bonus track is the Overture from a one act Viennese singspiel love story. Here Lehár contrasts Alpine mountain tones with a dab of oriental colour.

The booklet is provided in German, English and French with good background notes by Stefan Frey as well as a synopsis for each of the vocal numbers to help you follow the plot.

Raymond J. Walker

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