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Yvonne Kenny - Vienna, City of my Dreams
Johann STRAUSS II (1825 – 1899)
1. Grüss dich Gott (Entrance of the Countess) from Wiener Blut [4:00]
Karl ZELLER (1842 – 1898)
2. Schenkt man sich Rosen in Tirol from Der Vogelhändler [2:56]
Rudolf SIECZYNSKI (1879 – 1952)
3. Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume [3:41]
Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1882 – 1953)
4. Heia, Heia from Die Csárdásfürstin [3:03]
5. Sei nicht bös from Der Obersteiger [3:56]
Franz LEHÁR (1870 – 1948)
6. Einer wird kommen from Der Zarewitsch [3:32]
7. The Nuns’ Chorus from Casanova [3:30]
Robert STOLZ (1880 – 1975)
8. Mein Liebeslied muss ein Walzer sein from Im weissen Rössl [3:27]
Richard HEUBERGER (1850 – 1914)
9. Im Chambre séparée from Der Opernball [4:11]
10. Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss from Giuditta [4:51]
11. Vilja from Die lustige Witwe [5:45]
12. Love Unspoken (The Merry Widow Waltz) [3:48]
13. Hör’ ich Cymbalklänge from Zigeunerliebe [3:32]
Fritz KREISLER (1875 – 1962)
14. Stars in My Eyes [3:14]
Paul ABRAHAM (1892 – 1960)
15. Toujours l’amour from Ball im Savoy [3:30]
Ivor NOVELLO (1893 – 1951)
16. Some Day My Heart will Awake from King’s Rhapsody [2:21]
17. My Dearest Dear from The Dancing Years [2:30]
18. Good Night from Viktoria und ihr Husar [3:43]
Yvonne Kenny (soprano)
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Richard Bonynge
rec. 4-8 February and 5 and 7 May 2008 in the Iwaki Auditorium of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Southbank Centre, Melbourne
Texts and English translations enclosed
ABC CLASSICS 4766905 [65:28]


Experience Classicsonline

Yvonne Kenny has been one of the leading sopranos in the world for quite some time now, having made her operatic debut as early as 1975. For a lot of opera-goers she is probably closest associated with Handel roles but she has appeared in a variety of roles and also been a prominent concert and recording artist. A few years ago she starred in the title role of Kálmán’s Die Csardasfürstin (The Gypsy Princess) under the same conductor as here on a critically acclaimed Naxos recording. Ever since I have been longing to hear more of her in that kind of repertoire. Well, here she is now with a programme of mostly well known songs and arias and it’s certainly good.

Yvonne Kenny has the same noble bearing as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and in this repertoire it is unavoidable to compare the two. Another slightly younger operetta star of some decades back is Anneliese Rothenberger, who appeared on so many complete sets, often singing opposite Nicolai Gedda. Where they score over Yvonne Kenny is in a more idiomatic Viennese lilt, a way of cajoling the phrases. The Australian diva – the word definitely not used in a condescending sense – sings assuredly and beautifully but feels slightly prosaic. It might also be that Bonynge’s conducting is slightly on the stolid side. Sei nicht bös from Der Obersteiger is so well sung – and played – but it is that last ounce of Schmalz that is missing. Sylva Varescu’s entrance song from Die Csardasfürstin is sung in high spirits but here we have got a direct comparison in the complete set mentioned above and the years that have passed have robbed the voice of some of the brilliance. Probably she should have been allowed to record this programme a few years earlier. Still it is good to have this disc and taken on its own, without odious comparisons, there is so much to admire.

The Nuns’ chorus from Casanova is splendid and Mein Liebeslied muss ein Walzer sein is truly Viennese. This waltz was composed by the prolific Robert Stolz as one of three additional numbers to Im weissen Rössl, since Benatzky hadn’t provided a waltz himself and the theatre directors thought that an operetta without a waltz would flop. Stolz obliged and the result is one of the pest pieces in the score. Heuberger’s Im Chambre séparée is originally a duet – Fassbaender and Gedda recorded it – but it is almost invariably heard as a solo song, and not only by sopranos. Yvonne Kenny again sings well but I would have wished her more seductive.

The premiere of Giuditta in 1934 was probably Franz Lehár’s greatest moment. At last the Vienna State Opera opened their doors for the operetta composer, it was broadcast and he was hailed as the greatest operetta composer. With Richard Tauber and Jarmila Novotna as the leading couple it was a success and even though the operetta isn’t heard very often today in its entirety Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss has become immortal. It is one of the best things on this disc. And so are the other Lehár numbers, where Bonynge is more flexible and lets the singer expand the phrases, not least in a nuanced Vilja-Lied, followed by the loveliest of all operetta melodies, the Merry Widow Waltz, which she sings so inwardly, as though Danilo isn’t present – which he isn’t this time. Her pianissimo singing is wonderful.

So far practically everything has been from operetta’s top-ten list. Towards the end of the recital we are guided to some less crowded byways – but none the worse for that. The czardas from Zigeunerliebe, starting alluringly and then revving up overdrive, shows Yvonne Kenny in brilliant form and she is in good lyrical mood in the song by Fritz Kreisler. He wrote operettas too, besides his violin pieces, but this song is from an English movie musical, The King Steps Out, written for Met star Grace Moore.

Paul Abraham, Hungarian like so many of his operetta-writing colleagues, became immensely popular in the early 1930s, when he during three consecutive years composed his three hit operettas: Victoria und ihr Husar (1930), Die Blume von Hawaii (1931) and Ball im Savoy (1932). He wrote in an accessible Schlager style, often catching what was trendy at the time and Toujours l’amour with banjo is a good example. The greatest success was however Victoria und ihr Husar, which was played in Stockholm almost thirty years ago. I was struck then by the easy inventiveness, catchy melodies and captivating rhythms. Good Night is one of the finest creations of Abraham and it is a suitable end to this recital. Before that Yvonne Kenny has also offered two songs by Ivor Novello. I suppose some British readers may be annoyed if I state that his compositions are not quite up to the standard of his Viennese colleagues. They are quite agreeable but not more than that.

Taken as a whole this disc is a fine achievement and the comparisons I have mentioned are proof enough that I think Yvonne Kenny is on a level where no other comparisons are valid. No admirer of Ms Kenny or lover of this repertoire is likely to feel short-changed when acquiring it. An extra bonus is Andrew Greene’s informative notes.

Göran Forsling 


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