This recording has
gained iconic status because of the
presence of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in
the title role. It was one of a group
of operetta recordings which she made
for Walter Legge at EMI in the mid-1950s.
Many people will want the discs simply
because of the magic that Schwarzkopf
brings to the role, but this is an interesting
recording in other ways. Just as the
Opéra-Comique recordings for
French opera from the 1940s and 1950s
provide a valuable record of a performance
tradition that has just about disappeared,
so this disc brings together a group
of performers for whom German language
operetta was a familiar performing style.
The performances on this recording provide
a valuable insight into the way German
operetta was performed before the internationalisation
and homogenisation of performing styles.
Schwarzkopf is Hanna
Glawari to the manner born. There is
a glorious lightness to her performance,
devoid of all parody; she creates a
vivid character rather than just singing
a string of lovely melodies. I don’t
admire all of Schwarzkopf’s work and
here there is occasionally a touch of
arch-ness in her manner (something that
would get more pronounced as she got
older) but you can forgive her this
when the way she caresses a phrase sends
tingles up your spine.
As Danilo she has Erich
Kunz, a long-time member of the Vienna
State Opera. He brings immense charm
and character to the role; though his
sung performance is vivid, I would still
have loved to have seen him. But you
must balance against this the fact that
the role is a little to high for him.
He sings lower alternatives for some
phrases and can sound too old and heavy-voiced
for the part.
Another Vienna State
Opera member, coloratura soprano Emmy
Loose, sings Valencienne gloriously
and she is partnered by the Camille
of Nicolai Gedda. A refined and elegant
singer, he is just right for the role.
He would reprise it on Schwarzkopf’s
later recording of the opera and in
this later incarnation he sounds rather
more relaxed. The remaining parts are
cast from strength but the dialogue
can sound a little arch.
Otto Ackerman is utterly
at home in this music and it bubbles
along gloriously, though the Philharmonia
are not always on their best form. The
recorded sound is very congested and
not really something that I would want
to live with on an everyday basis. One
of this recording’s most recent incarnations
was in a double EMI set with ‘The Land
of Smiles’, so it is very welcome that
Regis have issued it on a single CD.
This disc is a notable
record of some superb performances.
However if you want Schwarzkopf in this
role you would probably be well advised
to go for her later recording under
Lovro von Matacic (with Eberhard Wachter