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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Johann STRAUSS (1825-1899)
Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron) - operetta in three acts (1885)
Sándor Barinkay (the Gypsy Baron) - Siegfried Jerusalem
Saffi (a gypsy girl) - Ellen Shade
Arsena (Zsupán’s daughter) - Janet Perry
Czipra (a gypsy woman) - Biserka Cvejić
Kálmán Zsupán (a rich pig-breeder) - Ivan Rebroff
Graf Peter Homonay (Governor of the Temesvár province) - Wolfgang Brendel
Mirabella (Arsena’s governess) - Martha Mödl
Ottokar – Willi Brokmeier
Conte Carnero (Royal Commissioner) - Hans Kraemmer
Südfunkchor Stuttgart
Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart/Kurt Eichhorn
rec. filmed, Hungary and Germany, 1-25 September 1975
Director: Arthur Maria Rabenalt
NTSC Stereo: PCM/Surround: DTS 5.1; Picture Format: 4:3
Subtitles: German (sung texts only)/English
Unitel, Munich production
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 0734437 [97:00]
Experience Classicsonline

“By the time Der Zigeunerbaron was premiered at the Theatre an der Wien, on 24 October 1885, Johann Strauss was more than a national hero. He was an institution, one as cherished as the venerable Emperor himself … It was cheered to the skies at its première.” (Richard Traubner, Operetta, A Theatrical History). Strauss’s biggest hit, the greatest of all Viennese operettas, Die Fledermaus had been premièred on Easter Sunday, 1874.
 
This Hungarian-location film of Johann Strauss’s The Gypsy Baron looks stunning with its sumptuous costumes and picturesque landscapes. But it is also memorable as the film that launched the singing career of Siegfried Jerusalem who went on to debut as Loge at Bayreuth and to become a great Wagnerian lyric tenor. At the time this film was made the production team needed, at short notice, a tenor for the title role. It had been noticed that Jerusalem, then a bassoonist in the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra had been studying singing for some years. His friends persuaded him to apply for the part of Sándor Barinkay - the Gypsy Baron. He was successful.
 
The plot of this 18th century-set operetta is complicated but put simply, without dwelling on subplot intricacies, it concerns Barinkay, found as a common entertainer by Count Carnero who had been commissioned by the Austrian court to find him and restore him to his father’s estate where a treasure lies, reputed to have been buried by the fleeing Ottoman, Mehmet Kui Pasha. A gypsy woman, Czipra has been expecting his return and prophesies that Barinkay will soon marry. Furthermore, on his wedding night a dream will reveal the location of the treasure. But a roguish pig-breeder, Zsupán, is a fly in the ointment because he has helped himself to some of Barinkay’s land. Philosophically, Barinkay accepts the situation but asks about the pig-breeder’s pretty daughter, Arsena. Arsena is presented to Barinkay but she is not at all interested because she is already in love with Ottokar. A band of gypsies arrive and Czipra explains that Barinkay is their lord. Saffi, Czipra’s daughter admits to having fallen in love with Barinkay and when he realizes Arsena is not for him, he chooses Saffi as his bride. After the young couple’s first night together, Czipra reveals that she has had a dream about the location of the treasure and so the three of them find the jewels. Carnero is furious that Barinkay and Saffi have spent their first night together in an unmarried state. In the highlight duet of the operetta, ‘Wer uns getraut?’ Barinkay and Saffi evoke nature claiming that they were wed by the birds. A troop of soldiers arrives. Their leader, Count Homony is recruiting for the war against Spain. The pig-breeder, Ottokar and some of the gypsy boys are quickly recruited. After insults have been hurled at Saffi, Czipra angrily confesses that the girl is really not her daughter but a princess, the daughter of the last Pasha who had ruled the area. Sándor Barinkay now feels unworthy to be the bridegroom of a princess and to Saffi’s dismay he joins the army. Two years later and the scene shifts to Vienna where the army has returned victorious. Ottokar is reunited with Arsena, and Barinkay, because of his valour, is allowed to keep the treasure and is promoted to be a real baron so there is now no impediment to his marriage with Saffi who has been waiting devotedly for him.
 
Jerusalem, in fine voice, makes a charming, debonair Gypsy Baron, impressing from his first aria as he guilelessly sings (with the chorus) ‘Als flotter Geist’ with the sensual Viennese waltz refrain, ‘Ja, das alles auf Ehr’ (Yes, I swear it’s all true!). He is very well partnered by Ellen Shade as Saffi who stirs gypsy blood in her czardas. They both are sublime together in their show-stopping duet, ‘Wer uns getraut?’ (see above). The role of the captivating but sulky Arsena, is delightfully sung by lyric soprano, Janet Perry. Her entry and duet and ensemble with Barinkay, ‘Sieh’ da, ein herrlich Frauenbild’ (How fine a figure of a woman) is another highlight. Biserka Cvejić is the knowing gypsy woman, Czipra, although her youthful-sounding voice somewhat belies her rather aged make-up. Ivan Rebroff as the roguish pig breeder and father of Arsena is hilarious as he boasts of his adventures as a soldier and seducer in his Act III song. Contrastingly Wolfgang Brendel is suitably commanding in his stirring Recruitment Song.
 
Beautifully filmed on location in Hungary with a fine cast of singers, this production is a delight.
 
Ian Lace

 


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