, though starrily cast and
musically absolutely complete, was let down by some quirky tempos
and, even more seriously, by the absence of spoken dialogue.
It was replaced by the gaoler Frosch appearing at various points
- not only in the last act where he belongs - trying to sum up
the situation. This fifteen-year-old Zigeunerbaron
equally complete. In fact it contains music that as far as I
know had never been recorded before. This time there is also
dialogue, adapted by Jürgen Flimm, who also directed and
sings and speaks the role of Carnero. Its total playing is 150
minutes as opposed to 120 on the classic Ackermann version from
1954. The big difference has little to do with slow tempos from
Harnoncourt and more to do with the completeness of the score.
The Ackermann has a minimum of spoken dialogue and several numbers
in the published score are either abridged or are missing altogether.
Completeness shouldn’t be an end in itself and judicious
trimming can heighten the dramatic flow, as it does in the Ackermann.
But there is a point in having all the music and it is possible
to programme out numbers or sections one feels are superfluous.
This time Teldec has provided enough cue-points.
Recorded live at a concert performance in the Vienna Concert
Hall the sound cannot be faulted and the singing and acting are
no doubt triggered by the presence of an audience. Some responses,
especially to amusing things in the dialogue, are heard but there
is no applause, which is a blessing, even though I wouldn’t
have minded some at the end of acts.
Harnoncourt is audibly inspired by this work, more so than in Fledermaus
where I found him pedestrian and where he chose some impossibly
slow tempos. Here the overture is fresh and lively and though
not quite so brilliantly put together as the Fledermaus
it is a wonderful string of pearls. There are in fact very few
places where one can question Harnoncourt’s tempos anywhere.
The lovely duet We runs getraut?
in act II is slow but
so it is on the Ackermann set - and it gives the listener time
to savour the ravishing melodies. Harnoncourt doesn’t quite
achieve Ackermann’s magic and his singers, good though
they are, are no match for Gedda and Schwarzkopf. On the other
hand Harnoncourt’s force and thrust in the act I finale
is overwhelming. The Vienna Symphony play well throughout and
The Arnold Schoenberg Choir is as excellent as expected.
The cast is less starry here than on the Fledermaus
but that is really not as much of a drawback as one would imagine, Zigeunerbaron
more of an ensemble operetta with fewer obvious show-pieces.
Herbert Lippert, who recorded a fine Tamino
at about the same time, is a fresh, lyrical and virile Barinkay,
not unlike the young Gedda on the Ackermann. Casting a tenor
as the boisterous pig-breeder Zsupán - a role for a bass-baritone
like Erich Kunz or a true bass like Kurt Böhme - seems rather
weird but Rudolf Schasching acquits himself with aplomb and he
relishes every word. Wolfgang Holzmair is best known as one of
the foremost Lieder singers of his generation - he was born in
1952 - but he has sung more than forty operatic roles. His Graf
Homonay is rather dark and serious, well sung but not as easy-going
as Prey on the Ackermann. Jürgen Flimm’s singing voice
had passed its ‘best before’ date but he is an expressive
and articulate actor nevertheless. As Saffi Pamela Coburn has
a rather larger voice than Elisabeth Schwarzkopf but she is nuanced
and sings the Gypsy Song (CD 1 tr. 17) with true Hungarian lilt.
Christiane Oelze is a lively, lyrical and lovely Arsena and her
coloratura is impeccable. Julia Hamari is a fruity Czipra and
Elisabeth von Magnus is a hilarious Mirabella (CD 1 tr. 12).
On most accounts this is a competitive Zigeunerbaron
for completeness it is a must for serious collectors. Franz Allers
on a 1960s EMI set is an old favourite but even better, though
in mono only, is the Ackermann
recorded in 1954. Martin Walker pointed out recently on our Forum
that there is also a Decca recording under Clemens Krauss, but
without dialogue. As at the time of writing this review I had
not heard it.