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Lyrita New Recording
Decca Phase 4
Albert LORTZING (1801-1851)
Zar und Zimmermann – romantic opera in three
(ten) - Peter the Great; Peter Haage (ten) - Peter Ivanov; Hans
Sotin (bass/bar) - Van Bett; Lucia Popp (sop) - Marie; Herbert
Fliether (bass/bar) - Admiral Lefort; Noël Mangin (bass) - Lord
Syndham; Horst Wilhelm (ten) - Marquis de Châteauneuf; Ursula
Boese - Widow Browe; Franz Grundheber - Officer
Ballet and Chorus of the Hamburg State Opera
Philharmonic State Orchestra Hamburg/Charles Mackerras
rec. Hamburg, Germany, 1969. ADD
Gyula Trebitsch, director
Arranged for TV by Joachim Hess
Picture format: NTSC 4:3 (Colour)
Sound format: Dolby Digital Mono
Region code: 0
Menu Languages: English, German, French, Spanish
Subtitle Languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
ARTHAUS AHM 101269 [131:00]
We hear precious little of Lortzing’s stage works in repertoire
outside Germany, yet this operetta is the one most regularly
performed within the country. Of Lortzing’s large output, Zar
und Zimmermann ranks supreme, and was a natural choice
for Hamburg Opera under Mackerras when they decided to mount
a production in 1969. Here, a filmed performance, sung in German,
had been ably directed for television by Joachim Hess and it
used excellent choreography by Isabella Vernici. Set in Saadam,
Holland in 1696 it concerns the interaction between the townspeople
and local boatyard where two Russians, integrated into the local
community, are concealing their true identities.
The soloists, headed by Lucia Popp, are first-class. In 1969, Popp was at her
prime, and here is heard at her freshest and very best. Singing and characterization
are both superb and it is clear how she could win the hearts of her audience.
Her frothy portrayal as Marie is magnetic. Her impish, vivacious charm and wide-eyed
flirtations carry considerable charisma in Lieblich rotten sich die Wangen.
I enjoyed this performance immensely. As a lyrical singer, Popp’s bright voice,
never shrill, is on form as she demonstrates mastery of rapid passages and then
effortlessly soars on long-held phrases.
Peter Haage has the build and strength of a person who gives you confidence that
he is in charge and able to command respect from his workers. His powerful, rich
baritone voice gives an equally commanding presence. He has considerable purity
of voice that carries well over numbers that include choral backing. Peter Ivanov
- shown in the German track-listing as Iwanov - partners Haage ably as his charge-hand
in the boatyard. Visually chubby for the role his voice complements the ensembles
well. Hans Sotin - one of the youngest soloists in the company - is effectively
transformed into the middle-aged, meddling town mayor, Van Bett. This is intended
to be an eccentric, immodest character but Sotin’s exaggerated comic portrayal,
always pulling faces, is over-the-top. Yet this German audience would not consider
this buffoonery out of place. However this aspect detracts from the authority
that he later needs to exert to develop the plot. Both he and the bass resonant
Lord Syndham sung by Noel Mangin give strong support in the ensembles. I notice
that Mackerras takes the music at a similar pace to Heger (EMI CDM7 69091-2)
and manages successfully to bring a touch of magic by enhancing some haunting
string effects in Zum Werk, das wir beginnen.
Much care has been taken to provide convincing acting even by the chorus when
caught in long shot. In Act I a chorus of carpenters works convincingly on a
full-scale boat with sizable baulks. Continuous authentic stage business shows
that there has been a consultant wood craftsman available to train the chorus
in their use of tools, rare in operatic productions. The music coupled with convincing
movement holds one’s attention and keep the activity in context. Consequently,
we open with a strong visual impact.
Kirchhoff’s sets are fairly minimalist: in Act I he covers much of the stage
with a practical boat-frame, being built before our eyes and over which the carpenters
clamber. In Act III we are confronted with a dark bland box set. Large 18ft doors
open to reveal a completed vessel ready to sail at the close of the Act. It is
clear that such a production as this could only be mounted on a large stage.
The costumes in rustic colours complement the set nicely. Rather odd is the use
of a muff, supported by a cummerbund threaded through it, for the Marquis in
Act I when it is neither cold nor representative of men’s attire at the end of
the 17th century.
The recording is good with a sound perspective entirely appropriate for the stage
image. The singers are forward placed and realistically match the visual perspective
of shots. For some reason there is an error in the track indexing; tracks do
not accurately synchronise with the start of a number, and begin nearly a second
into the section. Separately, Arthaus apologises for some imperfections of the
original that could not be eliminated, but I did not discover what they were
referring to. Throughout I found the picture and sound very good, with just a
little film-gate float, noticeable on static shots.
Arthaus have over twenty releases of productions between 1969 - this one - and
1996 that are geared more to grand opera. This production stands alone as the
only operetta, and is worthy of being supplemented by others.
Raymond J Walker
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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