Johann STRAUSS II (1825 – 1899)
Eine Nacht in Venedig (Viennese original version: 1883)
In German without spoken dialogue
Daniel Buckard (tenor) – Guido (The Duke); Pierre Gylbert/Johan Christensson (tenor) – Caramello (The Duke’s Barber); Erika Andersson/Anna Larsdotter Persson (mezzo) – Delaqua (Senator); Anna Larsdotter Persson (mezzo) – Barbara (Senator Delaqua’s Wife); Merete L. Meyer/Anna-Maria Krawe/Kristina Hansson (soprano) – Annina (Fish-girl); Kristina Hansson (soprano) – Ciboletta (Barbara’s Lady’s Maid); Henrik Holmberg (tenor) – Pappacoda (Spaghetti-cook and Ciboletta’s Boyfriend); Erika Andersson/Anna Larsdotter Persson (mezzo) – Agricola (Senator’s Wife)
Coro Notturno, Stockholm Strauss Orchestra/Mika Eichenholz
rec. live, Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, Sweden, 6 October 2002 (CD 1, CD 2 tr. 1-9), 1 January 2008 (CD 2 tr. 10-15)
NAXOS 8.660268-69 [62:12 + 56:37]
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 Thompson