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Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Friederike - Operetta in three Acts (1928) [106:14]
Friederike - Kristiane Kaiser (soprano)
Salomea - Sylvia Schwartz (soprano)
Goethe - Klaus Florian Vogt (tenor)
Lenz - Daniel Behle (tenor)
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Ulf Schirmer
rec. live, Prinzregententheater, München, 9 March 2008
CPO 777 330-2 [47:04 + 59:10]
Experience Classicsonline

Franz Lehár’s Friederike was a relatively late composition. The huge success of The Merry Widow occurred back in 1905. Between the Widow and Friederike came other successes like: Der Graf von Luxemburg (1909), Zigeunerliebe (1910), Frasquita (1922), Paganini (1925) and Der Zarewitsch (1927). Lehár, despite hostility loved Friederike and regarded it as more opera than operetta - a realisation that would fully flower in his last great production, Giuditta (1934) after another great success Das Land des Lächelns (1929)

Friederike was considered to be very daring. Its concept was the early life and ill-fated love of Germany’s beloved Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Just imagine an English composer being rash enough to consider creating an operetta around the life of William Shakespeare! The critics loathed it. The public adored it. Friederike with its more than 300 performances, was Berlin’s most successful work during the 1928/29 season. Yet, later, Hitler’s Third Reich would subsequently crush it as subversive to patriotic German sensibilities.

Richard Traubner writing in his book, “Operetta, A Theatrical History”, remarked, “Friederike is one of the most passionate Léhar works, allowing Tauber a field-day.” Richard Tauber played Goethe for the then exorbitant evening fee of 2,000 marks. He had to repeat the operetta’s hit song ‘O Mächen, mein mädchen…’, alone, a total of five times at the premiere. In fact at the Berlin Six-Day cycle race in 1928 the crowd of 6,000 spectators frenetically demanded that he sing that song. ‘O mädchen, mein mädchen, wie lieb’ ich dich’ (‘O maiden … how I love you’) appears again and again, either subtly or overtly throughout the work as its basic motif; it is not sung until Act II.

Friederike, tells the rather improbable story of how the young Goethe had been kissed by a French girl who then cursed the girl who would kiss him after her. Consequently Goethe had been wary of allowing any other maiden within kissing distance of him - even Friederike the object of his love. Friederike, unafraid of the curse, kisses him and seals her doom because her lover is soon summoned to the court of Duke Karl August of Weimar who does not welcome attached creative artists. Friederike, anxious not to stand in the way of Goethe’s career sacrifices her love for him.

Lehár’s music scintillates as ever. Much of the music is true to 18th century styles - the dainty and elegant Minuet that opens Act II - but it is also tinged with more modern, often ironic little orchestral colourations to comment on character, atmosphere and action. Ulf Schirmer directs the ensemble in a sunny and animated performance. Klaus Florian Vogt is hardly a new Tauber but he does make a good fist of Goethe. Both sopranos shine as the two sisters, Friederike and Salomea. Theirs are ingénue and soubrette roles that depart from the usual stock stereotypes. There are many highlights as well as that song. These include Goethe’s dreamily romantic Act I arias ‘O, wie schön, wie wunderschön’ (O how lovely, how wondrously lovely’) and ‘Sah ein Knab’ ein Röslein stehn …’ in which he confesses his love for Friederike, the magical Act II duet for Friederike and Goethe ‘All mein Fühlen, all mein Sehen …’; and the glittering tune-filled finale to Act I.

CPO are gradually working through and recording the Lehár operettas (see below). As before, one has to be familiar with the German language to enjoy these recordings to the full, especially the many German dialogue tracks so important to fully grasp the subtleties of the plot developments. Is it not possible for CPO to follow the lead of so many other recording companies, these days, and include access, via the Internet, to the libretto (preferably in three or more languages including English)?

Another Lehár hit from CPO.

Ian Lace

Reviews of other Lehár operattas on CPO
7770552 Schön is die Welt
7771482 Eva
7773032 Das land des Lachelns
7773312 Bleue Mazur
9993262 Wiener Frauen












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