Eine Nacht in Venedig has one of Strauss’ most confusing
plots, which says a lot; the reason for performing it is mainly
the music. It is a veritable string of pearls of ear-catching
melodies, lavishly orchestrated and grateful for the singers.
It bustles with good humour, vitality and zest for life. For
this recording the production team has wisely chosen to cut
the spoken dialogue altogether and - deprived of the ‘story’
- one can just lean back, shut one’s eyes, inhale the atmosphere
and sing along – or just enjoy it.
The recording was made as long ago as 2002 at a public concert
with soloists from the University College of Opera and the versatile
and experienced Mika Eichenholz at the helm of the Stockholm
Strauss Orchestra. The same forces could also be heard on a
Strauss’s Fürstin Ninetta, reviewed
a year ago. It isn’t, strictly speaking, a permanent orchestra
but a non-profit organization, made up of musicians from the
leading fulltime orchestras in Stockholm. Since they were founded
in 1992 they have played more than 1200 works by some 120 composers.
There is no doubt that they are highly professional and they
play with admirable Viennese lilt – but there are also patches
of rough ensemble, which is understandable at a live performance.
Since they only gave one performance of the work there were
no opportunities to paste in takes from an alternative try.
They could have tidied things up through an extra session in
the empty hall and thus been able to elide the applause that
is here rather clumsily faded out. But this would have caused
extra costs and I think we can tolerate this as a live event
rather than a studio production.
What is more disconcerting is that several roles are divided
between two or more singers. There are no explanations in the
booklet but I presume that the University College of Opera had
a good and rather even group of last term singers available
and wanted to show them off. I didn’t mind very much once I
had adjusted to the idea. With no linking dialogue it becomes,
as I said, more a concert with nice arias and ensembles.
The standard of singing, without in any way challenging the
casts on commercial recordings, is good. Either of the two recordings
I own – the legendary Ackermann with Schwarzkopf, Gedda and
Kunz and a stereo remake from the late 1950s with Gedda and
Rothenberger – have that undeniable charisma from world star
personalities. The tenors here have agreeable but small-scale
voices but they are used with fine sense for the drama and they
are expressive. Daniel Buckard, in the central role as the Duke,
grows throughout the performance and Johan Christensson, who
only appears in Caramello’s hit song Ach wie so herrlich
zu schau’n, has a lyric glow that makes him stand out. Kristina
Hansson is a splendid Ciboletta but her colleagues with whom
she shares the role, Merete L Meyer and Anna-Maria Krawe, are
also excellent. The latter’s Spott-Lied (CD 2 tr. 6)
is one of the highlights here.
As an appendix we are treated to six pieces of dance music based
on themes from the operetta, recorded separately on New Year’s
Day six years later. Best known is no doubt Lagunen Walzer,
which is Caramello’s hit song in its amended orchestral
version. Eichenholz has a fine feeling for Viennese style and
chooses sensible tempos throughout.
The sound is a bit variable, as often happens at live concerts,
and Christensson’s Lagunen Walzer is sung very close
to the microphone, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since
he sings it so well.
I am not going to discard my two studio recordings but with
young, fresh voices throughout the present version can be an
attractive proposition, in spite of the objections for which
I have accounted.
see also review by Simon