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Franz LEHÁR (1870 – 1948)
Highlights (in French)
Le Tsarévitch (Der Zarewitsch) (1927) [8:34] Introduction; Chanson de la Volga; Un beau ręve
Giuditta (1934) [13:39] Oh, signora, oh signora; Sur mes lčvres; Oh, ma belle étoile
Frédérique (Friederike) (1928) [10:20] Overture; Chantez, oiseaux; Quatuor des étudiants; Duo de la belle Alsacienne; Ah, pourquoi m’as-tu pris mon coeur?
Le Comte de Luxembourg (Der Graf von Luxemburg) (1909) [25:12] Entrée du comte; Entrée de Suzanne; Duo Suzanne – Fernand; Suzanne; Duo Basil – Juliette; Duo Suzanne – Fernand; Romance de Suzanne et Brissard; Duo Suzanne – Fernand; Finale
La danse de libellules (Libellentanz) (1922) [12:26]
Lina Dachary, Anita Ammersfeld (sopranos), Remi Corazza, Alain Vanzo, Henri Legay (tenors), Aimé Doniat, André Dran (baritones)
Chorus and Orchestre Lyrique of the ORTF/Adolphe Sibert
rec. studios, ORTF, Radio France, Paris, 1966 (La danse des libellules), 1970 and 1980 (Giuditta) and 1971
NAXOS 8.111010 [70:11]


Franz Lehár’s first big success was Die lustige Witwe in 1905 with Der Graf von Luxembourg following in 1909. But he found this sort of success difficult to repeat after the Great War and it was only with Richard Tauber’s championing of his work that Lehár began his final sequence of operettas, starting with Paganini in 1925 and Der Zarewitch in 1927.
 
Style is a tricky issue in operetta and opera companies nowadays frequently seem to have lost the ability to bring out the fragile charm of Lehár’s works - apart from the odd, over-boiled production of Die lustige Witwe. On this disc Naxos have assembled a selection of excerpts from Lehár’s operettas recorded in French by Adolphe Sibert. Sibert was Austro-Hungarian by birth but Paris was his adopted city. He studied under Wilhelm Furtwängler and Clemens Kraus and worked with Kálmán, Stolz and Richard Strauss. In the post-war period he produced broadcasts of Viennese and light orchestral music for French radio.
 
The advantage of having Sibert at the helm in these recordings is that they have just the right combination of style and charm; they hit the period flavour perfectly. The drawback is that the ORTF orchestra are not the most disciplined of bands so that with the style goes a degree of untidiness and a tendency for the strings to play like Mantovani. This might put some people off, but I loved it.
 
The soloists are stars of French operetta and the Opéra Comique. They sing Lehár as if he was a Frenchman. Soprano Lina Dachary, who was originally Basque, has a silvery, narrow focused French voice in the Mady Mesplé mould. A tendency to sharpness and hardness can occur in the upper register but she sings the music with such love and charm that you rather forgive her.  Dachary sings the soprano solos is Le Tsarévitch, Frédérique, Le Comte de Luxembourg and Le Danse de Libellules.
 
In Giuditta the soprano solo, meine Lippe sie kussen so heiss is sung by Anita Ammersfeld in the original German. Ammersfeld is joined on the disc by Alain Vanzo, though the two recorded at different times. Vanzo contributes two lovely solos including some stunning final head notes. André Dran is Lina Dachary’s stylish partner in Le Comte de Luxembourg and Henri Legay joins her in two duos from La danse de libellules.
 
The different times of recording of the various tracks means that the presentation varies slightly. Whilst most were obviously recorded live, with applause which is at times rather annoying, other tracks have no applause.
 
How you react to this disc will depend on how you appreciate hearing Lehár with a period French accent. Personally I found them to be style and charm personified, despite the untidiness.
 
Robert Hugill

see also reviews by Göran Forsling and Ian Lace
 

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