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Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1882-1953)
Die Csárdásfürstin (The Gypsy Princess) - Operetta in Three Acts (1913-1915)
Libretto by Leo Stein and Bela Jenbach (German Libretto may be accessed via the Internet)
[Plus bonus tracks of orchestral selections from some of Kálmán’s other operettas: Der Zigeunerprimás; Die Faschingsfee; Das Hollandweibschen and Der Teufelsreiter]
Sylva Varescu ... Yvonne Kenny ()
Edwin Ronald...Michael Roider ()
Countess Stasi ... Mojca Erdmann ()
Count Boni ... Marko Kathol ()
Feri von Kerekes/The Notary ... Karl-Michael Ebner ()
General Rohnsdorff ... Hellmuth Klumpp ()
The Prince ... Heinz Holecek ()
The Princess ... Yvonne Kálmán ()
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and Slovak Philharmonic Chorus/Richard Bonynge
rec. Slovak Radio Concert Hall, Bratislava, 9–17 December 2002.
5.1 Surround Sound SACD/CD Hybrid Disc Plays on all CD and SACD players
NAXOS 6.110075-76 [56:20 + 57:17]

 

Sheer delight this album – Bonynge’s inspired, sparkling production of Emmerich Kálmán’s The Gypsy Princess, brims with superb toe-tapping melodies – it is Viennese operetta at its best, vividly recorded in brilliant and involving surround sound.

As Nigel Douglas so succinctly puts it, Kálmán’s gift to "Viennese operetta was the brilliant colour, heady rhythms and dynamic energy of his native Hungary." The Gypsy Princess, first produced in 1915, was, not surprisingly, considering its wealth of intoxicating, memorable tunes, his greatest popular success. How its joie de vivre must have shone through the darkness of war-torn Europe.

The tale is simple: Song and dancer, Sylva Varescu is preparing to depart the Viennese stage for an America tour. But Prince Edwin loves her and will not let her go. She returns his feelings but there’s a fly in the ointment because the Prince’s parents want him to marry the more suitable Countess Stasi. Edwin publicly declares his defiance and binds himself to marrying Sylva within eight weeks after he has sorted out his entanglements. Inevitably misunderstandings and break-ups ensue before the inevitable happy ending.

Yvonne Kenny, is a feisty romantic Sylva. [Readers might remember her in good form as Hanna Glawari in Lehár’s The Merry Widow on the 2003 Opus Arte DVD reviewed on this site]. She is splendidly supported by a most ardent and reckless Michael Roidera as Prince Edwin. Mojca Erdman has youthful purity and innocence as the Countess Stasi, Edwin’s cousin and childhood sweetheart, who finds romance with Boni, Sylva’s manager (an engagingly rakish Marko Kathol).

But it is the music! Act I represents a delicious continual outpouring of memorable melodies that defies the listener not to hum or toe-tap along with them. After the Overture, Sylva sings, in her Lied: ‘Heia, Heia, in den Bergen ist mein Heimatland’, first nostalgically about her distant mountain homeland to broad gypsy rhythms before the tempo quickens and she launches into a rip-roaring exposition of a philosophy of life not unlike Carmen’s "If you wish to win my heart, take care, you will be mine body and soul ... " supported by a lusty chorus. Then Boni, enjoins the men’s chorus in another big hit, the jolly raffish march-ensemble ‘Alle sind wir Sünder’ which is very reminiscent of ‘Wie die Weiber’, the big hit Act II male chorus from Lehár’s The Merry Widow. Cor anglais and celesta introduce romance and announce Sylva and Edwin’s delectable duet – ‘Sylva, ich will nur dich’. Boni leads the women’s chorus in another rollicking number the trotting rhythms of ‘Aus ist’s mit der Liebe’ in which he tells the girls that it is time to bid them goodbye before going to New York but begs just one more kiss. If all that was not enough there follows yet another enchanting number, ‘O, jag’ dem Glück nicht nach’ in which Sylva sings of every woman’s search for lasting romantic love before the music develops into another fiery czardas. If this level of melodic invention is not always maintained through the remaining two acts and a little sameness of tunefulness intrudes, the music is always a delight. But I must mention Sylva and Edwin’s haunting Act II duet ‘Tanzen möchte ich’ and Act III’s sparkling gypsy-style trio ‘Nimm, Zigeuner, deiner Geige’ as Boni and Feri seek to dispel Sylva’s gloom.

CD2 has more attractive tunes - some 28 minutes of romantic lilting music from four other lesser-known Kálmán operettas played with verve and style.

A sparkling production of Kálmán’s tune-filled operetta. Hugely enjoyable

Ian Lace



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