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Operetta Favourites - Arias and Duets from operettas in three acts
Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
(1) “Die Lustige Witwe” (1905) [15:13]; (2) “Der Land des Lächelns” (1929) [15:33]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899) (3) “Eine Nacht in Venedig” (1883) [8:52]; (4) “Wiener Blut” (1899) [9:24]; (5) “Die Fledermaus” (1874) [12:42]; “Der Zigeunerbaron” (1885) [13:32]
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano) (1-6); Erich Kunz (baritone) (1, 2, 3); Nicolai Gedda (tenor) (2,4,5,6); Helmut Krebs (tenor) (5); Karl Dönch (baritone) (5); Gertrude Burgsthaler-Schuster () (6); Philharmonia Orchestra (1-6); Otto Ackermann (conductor) (1-3, 5, 6); Herbert von Karajan (conductor) (4)
rec. London, 1953 (1, 2), 1954 (3, 4, 6), 1955 (4)
No texts or translations included
Detailed track-list at end of review
REGIS RRC1291 [75:11] 
Experience Classicsonline

All lovers of Viennese operetta should be grateful to Walter Legge for fulfilling his dream of recording the major stage works of Johann Strauss and Franz Lehár. Fulfillment came between 1953 and 1955 with artists familiar with the music and its style. This disc includes excerpts from all of them, and in so doing celebrates in particular the artistry of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. However even given the quality of these performances, this does mean that the disc runs a risk of monotony as all twenty-two items feature the same singer, albeit sometimes in ensemble. There’s also the fact that necessarily the disc cannot give an adequate summary of the overall virtues of each recording. The former is especially a potential problem with a singer like Schwarzkopf where what one listener hears as appealing characteristics another hears as irritating mannerisms. My own preference in principle would be for a more balanced selection from each operetta, including a few solos for other singers. That said I found myself very quickly settling back to enjoy what was there rather than lamenting what might have been. Although Schwarzkopf does not suggest much in the way of individual character for each of these roles, she is very much aware of the characterisation of the individual numbers. As a result what we have is in effect a series of rich bon-bons, each very enjoyable but perhaps somewhat too much if taken more than a few at a time.

Regis’s presentation is just about adequate, with all-too-brief notes by James Murray setting the scene for each number. These are helpful but even with works as well known as these they are no substitute for the full words and a translation. The re-mastering has resulted in a somewhat faded and occasionally distorted sound which I do not remember from the originals, although I admit that memory is not necessarily a reliable guide and I no longer have the discs to hand. However it did not take me long to forget about the sound quality or presentation and simply to enjoy the performances. These are of immensely high quality in themselves – the contributions of Erich Kunz and Nicolai Gedda are just as much a highlight as those of Schwarzkopf herself. Some critics, especially those who prefer a tenor in this role, have found the former too mature for the part of Danilo. For me this is inspired casting, emphasizing the very individual character of this operetta, dealing as it does with two middle-aged people without any false romance. Here and in each work except “Die Fledermaus” Otto Ackermann conducts with affection and understanding and no making of false points or any unnecessary lingering. Karajan adopts a similar approach in “Die Fledermaus” which is equally successful. No doubt no two listeners would be equally satisfied with the choice of numbers. Personally I would have preferred more of “Der Zigeunerbaron” and less of “Der Land des Lachelns” but this is not a serious criticism if you accept the basic approach of choosing items in which Schwarzkopf takes a part. 

As you may gather, I very much enjoyed this disc despite my initial concerns over the choice of material, presentation and re-mastering. It is quite simply too good to carp over. 

John Sheppard

Detailed track-list:

Die Lustige Witwe
Bitte meine Herren [3:09]
Viljalied [5:18]
Heia, Mädel aufgeschaut [3:02]
Ganz a Pariser art [1:41]
Lippen schweigen (Waltz song) [2:03]
Der Land des Lächelns
Ich danke fur dies Huldigung … Ger, gern wär’ich verliebt [3:21]
Es ist nicht das erstemal [2:32]
Bei einem Tee en deux [2:52]
Wer hat die Liebe uns in Herz gesenkt [4:54]
Ich möchte einmal [1:54]
Eine Nacht in Venedig
Frutti di mare [2:18]
Annina! Caramello [2:51]
Was mir der Zufall gab [1:45]
Hör mich, Annina [1:58]
Wiener Blut

Grüss dich Gott, du liebes Nesterl [3:46]
Wiener Blut [5:38]
Die Fledermaus

Mein Herr, was dächten Sie [2:44]
Diese Anstand, so manierlich [5:10]
Klänge der Heimat (Czardas) [4:48]
Der Zigeunerbaron
So elend und so true… O habet acht (Zigeunerlied) [5:34]
Schatzwalzer [3:26]
Wer uns getraut [4:32]



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