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Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Das Land des Lächelns (The Land of Smiles) - operetta in three acts (1929) [74:03 + 12:02]
Libretto by Ludwig Herzer and Fritz Löhner
Lisa ... Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Prince Sou-Chong ... Nicolai Gedda (tenor)
Gustl ... Erich Kunz (baritone)
Mi ... Emmy Loose (soprano)
Tschang ... Otakar Kraus (baritone)
Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus/Otto Ackermann
rec.17, 19-21 April, 28 June 1953, Kingsway Hall, London. ADD
Plus bonus tracks – Excerpts from Lehár Operettas [66:19]:-
Die Lustige Witwe (1905) ‘Vilja Lied’ – Dusolina Giannini (soprano) rec. 1938
Frasquitta (1922) ‘Hab’ ein blaues Himmelbelt’ – Richard Tauber (tenor) rec. 1927
Der Zarewitsch (1927) ‘Einer wird kommen’ – Ester Rethy (sopraono with Vienna Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer rec. 1942
Friederike (1928) ‘Sah’ ein Knab’ ein Röslein steh’n’ and ‘Oh Mädchen, mein Mädchen’ – Leonardo Aramesco (tenor) rec. 1933
Eva (1911) ‘Wär es auch nichts als ein Augenblick’ – Lotte Lehmann (soprano) rec. 1938
Das Land des Lächelns (1929) (selections) Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano) and Rupert Glawitsch (tenor) rec. 1940
Paganini (1925) (selections) Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano) and Rupert Glawitsch (tenor) rec. 1939
Schön ist die Welt (1930) ‘Ich bin verliebt’ – Ester Rethy (soprano) with Vienna Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer rec. 1942; ‘Liebste, glaub’ an mich’ and ‘Schön ist die Welt’ – Marcel Wittrisch (tenor) rec. 1930
Der Fürst der Berge (1915?) ‘Kindchen, sie hübsch brav’ and ‘’Alt und jung’ - Irene Eisinger (soprano) rec. 1930
Giuditta (1934) ‘Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss’ – Jarmila Novotna (soprano) with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer rec. 1934; ‘Du bist meine Sonne’ and ‘Freunde, da Lebens ist lebenswert’ - Helge Rosvaenge (tenor) rec. 1943.
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111016-17 [2 CDs: 74:03 + 78:21]


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This reissue on the Naxos super-bargain label of this classic operetta recording is most welcome.

Franz Lehár was generally considered the most significant operetta composer of the first half of the 20th century. His early work, Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow) (1905) was a huge international success and tended to overshadow all the many Lehár operettas that succeeded it. Das Land des Lächelns (The Land of Smiles) was one of his last operettas and a more mature work with a not-so-happy ending. It pointed the way to his late masterpiece, Giuditta (1934) that was almost operatic in its treatment.

The central role of Prince Sou-Chong, sung on this recording, by the wonderful Nicolai Gedda, was originally sung by that great Lehár tenor Richard Tauber. Quoting from Richard Traubner’s acclaimed book, Operetta: “…The part of Sou-Chong fitted Tauber to a T, especially after a debilitating bout with a severe form of arthritis had partially disfigured his face and left him with a slight limp – the Chinese makeup and long robes hid all this…[the celebrated] ’Dein ist mein ganzes Herz (‘Yours Is My Heart Alone’) was sung by Tauber in every possible way during the encores – in German, in French, in English, sotto voce, and so forth. The song took him and the operetta around the world.”

This classic 1953 LP recording was the first complete set of the operetta and was originally released as Columbia 33CX 1114 and 1115. The cast was headed by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, wife of the recording producer and impresario, Walter Legge. Schwarzkopf plays Lisa, daughter of Count Gustav von Pottenstein who falls in love with Prince Sou-Chong and follows him when he is recalled to his homeland from the Chinese Embassy in Vienna. She sparkles in her solo numbers such as the delightful Act 1 waltz song ‘Flirten, bisschen flirten’ and in her friendship duet, ‘Es ist nicht das erste Mal’ with her admirer Count Gustl (the charming Erich Kunz). But it is her duets with Nicolai Gedda that persist in the memory, duets like the charming ‘Bei einem Tee’ and (Act I) , the bitter but poignant ‘Ich bin dein Herr’ (Act II) and the heart-break of the concluding Act III duets as the lovers are forced to part. Gedda, is of course, wonderful, his voice caressing the lyrics, his timbre and vocal line so exquisite, so expressive. Listen to his heartfelt singing, so love-stricken in ‘Immer nur lächeln und immer vergnügt’, and dreamy and gentle as he explains Chinese courtship in ‘Von Apfelblüten einen Kranz ; ah’ (Act I); and, of course, so ardently romantic in the Act II show-stopper ‘Dein ist mein ganzes Herz!’

Additionally there is the pleasure of the youthful sounding lyric soprano, Emmy Loose as Sou-Chong’s sister Mi, so fresh and delightful in her rendition of her Act II ‘Im Salon zur blau’n Pagode’ and her persuasive love duet with her Count Gustl, ‘Meine Liebe, deine liebe.’

Legge’s first choice to conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra in this recording was Karajan but he declined so Legge turned to Otto Ackermann who proved to be an ideal Lehár interpreter fully realising the composer’s subtleties of harmony and orchestration and contrasts between the Viennese setting of Act I and the oriental location of Acts II and III. Just listen, for instance, to the depth of feeling he draws from the orchestra in the sadness of the closing pages of the operetta.

CD2 is completed by excerpts from Lehár operetta recordings from the late 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s, performed by legendary singers. These include the distinguished artist and fine lieder singer, Lotte Lehmann, singing ‘Wär es auch nichts als ein Augenblick’ from Eva and Richard Tauber’s rendition of ‘Hab’ ein blaues Himmelbett’ from Frasquita. There are also substantial excerpts from Lehár’s Paganini and from an earlier recording of Das Land des Lächelns both of which starred Elisabeth Schwarkopf, but with tenor Rupert Glawitsch. There are also excerpts from Der Zarewitsch, Die Lustige Witwe, Schön ist die Welt, and Giuditta.

A classic recording of a favourite Lehár operetta with superb performances. At Naxos’s super budget price don’t hesitate.

Ian Lace








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