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Franz LEHÁR (1870–1948)
Eva – operetta in three acts (1911) [126:09] (with complete Dialogues)
Morenike Fadayomi (soprano) – Eva; Zora Antonic (soprano) – Pipsi; Reinhard Alessandri (tenor) – Octave Flaubert; Thomas Zisterer (baritone) – Prunelles; Thomas Malik (buffo tenor) – Dagobert; Gerhard Balluch (actor) – Bernard Larousse; Karl Herbst (actor) – Voisin; Peter Andreev (bass-baritone) – Matthieu; Florian Widmann (baritone) – Fredy; Christian Giglmayr (baritone) – Teddy.
Chor des Lehár Festivals Bad Ischl
Franz Lehár-Orchester/Wolfgang Bozic
rec. Festspielsaal Bad Ischl, 22–24 August 2005. DDD
cpo 777 148-2 [48:21 + 77:48]
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cpo are doing great things for lesser known music, many times undeservedly neglected works. The cycle of Kurt Atterberg’s nine symphonies is one recent project, gloriously realised, Carl Loewe’s songs and ballads is another long-time undertaking; I reviewed volume 20 not long ago, and Franz Lehár’s “other” operettas – apart from that handful that is frequently played – have been given brand new recordings. This is the third within a year (see my reviews of Schön ist die Welt and Ziegeunerliebe). They may not always have picked the best singers in the business and presentation has sometimes been a bit slipshod, but operetta lovers must still feel grateful that the music becomes available.
Eva has never been much of a success and set beside some of his other stage-works the musical – or rather – melodic inspiration seems a bit meagre. The only hit-song is Eva’s Lied early in act I, Wär es auch nichts als ein Augenblick, which also appears a couple of times later on in the operetta as a kind of Leitmotif. There are good enough melodies of typical Lehár Schmalz and a great deal of light-hearted rhythmic dances, but they tend to slip out of one’s memory as soon as they are over. What is obvious though is his masterly handling of the orchestra and more than in any other operetta I know gives grateful and attractive solos to many of the instrumentalists in a transparent orchestral web. I think he is closer to Puccini’s sensuality than Richard Strauss’s overblown bombast, even though in the second act finale there are reminiscences of Der Rosenkavalier, which was premiered almost a year before Eva was first performed, on 24 November 1911 at Theater an der Wien. That was the same theatre that also saw the premiere of Die lustige Witwe, and the first Hanna Glawari and Danilo, Mizzi Günther and Louis Treumann, also sang the leading roles in the new operetta.
The libretto is a variant of the old Cinderella story, where the poor factory girl wins the prince, in this case the owner of the glass factory, situated near Brussels. A kind of social realism, one could think, but in the second act we are back in the normal upper class operetta world, in Octave Flaubert’s villa. The third and last act takes us, not for the first time in a Lehár operetta, to Paris. There are rather few arias, and those few are labelled Lied (song) to make them less pretentious, since they are often very short. Most of the musical numbers are duets, but there are no less than three melodramas that grow into songs or duets. The three finales are quite extended numbers, the one in act II is almost 14 minutes long, and here, just as in the melodrama numbers, Lehár works in freer, partly recitative style, more related to opera. It is also in these more ambitious numbers that his inventive scoring is at its most colourful. This recording is complete with all the spoken dialogue, in some places fairly stilted and unatmospheric but there are several heated scenes where the acting is lively and involved. It is a pity, though, as is unfortunately often the case, that the spoken dialogue is recorded at a seemingly lower level. This means that you have to turn up the volume quite a bit to hear it properly and then turn it down again when the music starts. The melodramas are likewise afflicted and even though Lehár has scored the music lightly, the orchestra still tends to mask some of the spoken words. I also regret that the sung and spoken texts are not printed in the booklet, which would have been a great asset even for fluent German speakers. Apart from the balance problem the recording is good without being very atmospheric. It was recorded in the Festival Hall in Bad Ischl, where every summer there is a Lehár festival. Lehár lived in a beautiful villa in Bad Ischl in Salzkammergut in Austria, from 1910 until his death, but he also had a house in Vienna. This recording was not made during performances but with a cast that had played a number of performances and were settled into their roles. Conducted by Wolfgang Bozic, who is well versed in this genre – I have heard him conduct operetta in Vienna – and he finds that typical Lehárian lilt in the music with tempos that feel absolutely right. The chorus is good. There is even some a cappella singing at the beginning of Act I.
Of the soloists Morenike Fadayomi impresses in the title role with a large vibrant dramatic soprano voice. It comes as no surprise to find that she has been singing both Aida and Salome. Reinhard Alessandri, an experienced operetta singer. I saw his Edwin in Die Csardasfürstin at Volksoper some years ago. He is a good actor while his voice is rather small and he has some trouble with the top notes. But he can sing meltingly beautifully when the tessitura is not too high and in the main he makes a positive impression. Zora Antonic as Pipsi is fully into her role and Thomas Malik is just perfect for the comic part as Dagobert with his expressive and fluent buffo tenor. Stefan Frey contributes one of his well-researched liner notes and also a synopsis that unfortunately isn’t related to the track-list, but rather gives a general overview. On the credit side it is nice to have several photos, both from the original production back in 1911 and from the Bad Ischl event.
A matter of swings and roundabouts but operetta lovers will find much to enjoy here.
Göran Forsling




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