This is an imaginative, sumptuous filming of Johann Strauss’s
operetta set in a fantastical, studio-set, 18th century
Venice at carnival time. Its theatricality is enhanced by artful
devices designed to accentuate the drama and wit of the story:
artifices that include mirrors, distortions and even a roving
telescope to convey the deception being planned in the first finale’s
opening ensemble. The sets and costumes are lavish and the splendid
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound of this first international DVD release
of the original Václav Kašlik (Czech producer, composer and conductor)
film adds icing to a delicious confection.
Night in Venice was first performed
in Berlin in October 1883 but was a flop because of dramatic
fumbling and calamitous, inane lyrics. Strauss demanded an immediate
overhaul for the Viennese premiere, six days later, at the Theatre
an der Wien. This was far more successful and the operetta has
retained its popularity ever since.
the plot is complicated. I will attempt a broad-brush description.
It opens with middle-aged womaniser, the Duke of Urbino, taking
an elixir - an early version of Viagra - concocted by Casanova
so that he can fully enjoy the temptations of the Carnival in
Venice. Senator Delacqua is keen to further his business ambitions
by currying favour with the Duke. He has a young beautiful wife,
Barbara who is lusted after by Enrico, Delacqua’s nephew. Enrico
persuades pasta chef Pappacoda to take Barbara a note suggesting
a tryst. Pappacoda’s girl friend, Ciboletta, is jealous when
she catches Pappacoda flirting with Annina, Barbara’s foster-sister.
Pappacoda after explaining to Ciboletta that Annina was looking
for Caramello, the Duke’s personal barber, manages to win Ciboletta
over with the hope that they can get married if the Duke employs
Pappacoda as his personal chef. Tension also develops in the
relationship of Annina and Caramello for she is none too happy
with his slowness to commit to marriage. With the Duke determined
to conquer Barbara during the masked festivities, the stage
is set for complications galore particularly when Barbara duly
runs off with Enrico leaving a masked Annina to pose as Barbara
in order to meet the Duke and further Delacqua’s ambitions.
Later Ciboletta arrives at the festivities claiming to be Barbara
too, much to the confusion of the Duke and the jealous rage
of Caramello and Pappacoda.
A Night in Venice, cannot compare with Die Fledermaus,
it nevertheless has delightful waltzes and other dance melodies.
The international cast all impress and they clearly enjoy the
fun of this sparkling production. The cherubic-faced Anton de
Ridder is excellent as the ambivalent Duke of Urbino, his lyric
voice gracing such highlights as the celebrated ‘Sei mir gegrüsst,
du holdes Venezia’. The two other tenor roles shine too: Jon
Piso as the quick-witted Caramello, especially in his lovely
aria as he takes ‘Barbara’ in the gondola to the Duke’s party.
Cesare Curzi’s Pappacoda delights as he tries to assure Ciboletta
of his unswerving devotion. Sylvia Geszty and Julia Migenes
- at the time, based in Munich - are fiery and spirited as Annina
and Ciboletta, their long-suffering and vengeful ladies. The
veteran singer, Ljuba Welitsch appears in a cameo role as Agricola
the leader of a gang of ageing lady admirers of the Duke.
altogether delightful divertissement. Just right for a rainy