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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

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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 rêve; Giuditta (1934) [13:39] Oh, signora, oh signora; Sur mes lèvres; 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]

 

These are live broadcast performances and the sound varies from the spacious to the congested; from the very good to the passable. One is tempted to wonder if any top note shrillness is down to the sound engineering rather than the performers. Judging by the audience’s enthusiastic reception I am inclined to suspect that in most cases it is the former. Another grouse before getting down to cases: Naxos’s notoriously perfunctory notes are particularly unhelpful on this occasion: have Peter Dempsey’s usually excellent notes been shrunk to accommodate the restrictions of a 12-page booklet in English and French? Instead of so much space devoted to notes on the life of Lehár that can be found on so many other albums, would it not have been better to have more detail about the lesser known works on this album, especially La danse des libellules and Le Tsarévich? * The track listings are perfunctory too; for instance Giuditta’s celebrated Act IV aria sung in full here and with gusto by Anita Ammersfeld, is usually identified as ‘Ich weiss es selber nicht… Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss’. Interestingly with his final operetta, Giuditta, Lehar approaches opera and moves towards Bizet and Puccini – while Puccini had, in 1917, moved towards operetta with his La Rondine. Incidentally I can recommend the Rudolf Moralt 1958 Decca recording of Giuditta with Hilde Gueden in the title role and Waldemar Kmentt as Octavio, and Richard Traubner’s excellent book, Operetta – A Theatrical History – Routledge - www.routledge-ny.com.

Staying with Giuditta, it is in these excerpts that the cream of the singing on this album is heard – that of Alain Vanzo as Octavio. Vanzo’s singing is intensely and sincerely expressive. He is not afraid to insert that little catch in his voice at precisely the right emotional moment and unafraid to add a little rubato and portamenti. With singing like this, there must have been so many misty eyes.

This glorious expressiveness is the keynote of Adolphe Sibert and his ORTF players. Sibert in fact had worked with some of the finest operetta composers including Lehár, Kálmán and Robert Stolz. In 2003 the Académie du Disque Lyrique posthumously awarded Adolphe Sibert (1899-1991) a ‘Special Distinction’ for his recordings of Viennese Operetta. Listening to the glitter and graceful lilt of these recordings this distinction comes as no surprise. Siebert was also a distinguished violinist and one wonders if it is his lyrical sweetness of tone that distinguishes the many violin solos on this album.

Der Graf von Luxemburg is the main work on the album with more than 25 minutes playing time. The favourite show-stoppers are included and sung with style and feeling. The programme kicks off with some spirited Russian-style song and dance from Le Tsarévitch complete with atmospheric balalaikas to the fore. Lyric soprano Lina Dachary, is featured here, and in the majority of tracks on this album. Her singing sometimes tends to shrillness and a slight tendency to miss her notes but this is a small quibble for in the main she has warmth and spontaneity and, when required, spunk. Her ‘Ah, pourquoi m’as-tu pris mon Coeur?’ (Frédérique) is especially heart-touching.

A glorious disc of Viennese Operetta excerpts well known and not so well-known.

Ian Lace

see also Review by Göran Forsling

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