Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899) Die Göttin der Vernunft (1897)
Veronika Groiss (soprano) – Comtesse Mathilde de Nevers, a beautiful
young woman; Manfred Equiluz (tenor) – Colonel Furieux, about 40
years old; Kirlianit Cortes (tenor) – Captain Robert, about 30 years
old; Franz Födinger (tenor) – Bonhomme, local landowner, about 60
years old; Isabella Ma-Zach (soprano) – Ernestine, folk singer;
Wolfgang Veith (tenor) – Jacquelin, caricaturist, 26 years old;
Chalais; Eva-Maria Kumpfmüller (soprano) – Susette, chamber maid
to the Comtesse; Andreas Mittermeier (baritone) – Sergeant Pandore;
Calais; Nicolas Legoux (baritone) – Balais
Students from the Vienna Private University Conservatory (chorus)
Slovak Sinfonietta, Žilina/Christian Pollack Arrangements from the Operetta Die Göttin der Vernunft
CD 2 trs. 7-13
7. Heut’ ist Heut’, Walzer Op. 471 [9:48]
8. Nun nicht mucken! Polka française, Op. 472 [4:08]
9. Wo uns’re Fahne weht! Marsch Op. 473 [2:32]
10. Da nicken die Giebel, Polka-Mazurka (Op. 474) [4:42]
11. Frisch gewagt, Galopp (Op. 475) [3:03]
12. Die Göttin der Vernunft, Quadrille (Op. 476) [5:17]
13. Die Göttin der Vernunft/Reiche Mädchen. Divertissement
for full orchestra, Op. 160 (arr. Oscar Fetrás [11:43]
rec. Fatra Home of Arts, Žilina, Slovakia, 2 -4 December 2009 (CDs
1-2); rec. 1993–1999 (CD 2 trs. 7-13 – previously issued by Marco
Synopsis but no texts enclosed
NAXOS 8.660280-81 [71:20 + 54:12]
The coming to being of Johann Strauss II’s last operetta was
surrounded with disagreements between the composer and his librettists.
Die Göttin der Vernunft dealt with actual events of Robespierre’s
Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. A French politician,
Pierre Chaumelle was instrumental in introducing an anti-Christian
atheistic creed, the Cult of Reason. On 10 November 1793 he
organized a ceremony, the Festival of Reason where the Goddess
of Reason, ‘in the costume of Eve’, was brought into Notre-Dame
Cathedral in a procession – a not very likely story for an operetta.
At least Strauss thought so, when he was finally presented with
the completed scenario. It didn’t rhyme with his own religious
belief and he tried to back out from the project. One of the
librettists, who was a lawyer, firmly explained that this would
be in breach of contract. Strauss had to work against his own
conviction but completed the task in eight months. He wasn’t
happy about the situation from the outset and no more so when
the work was done. He didn’t even attend the premiere at the
Theater an der Wien on 13 March 1897. The reception from the
music critics was mixed and the operetta survived just 36 performances.
111 years had to pass before it was ever heard again, and that
was at the Fatra Palace of Arts in Zilina, Slovakia, when this
world premiere recording was made. The story is less controversial
today than it was more than a century ago and Strauss was offered
far sillier librettos. Musically, however, it’s the same captivating
melodies and rhythms we know from Strauss’s heyday as a composer.
He was 72 at the time of composition and totally uninspired
by the story, a fact even more remarkable when one listens to
this lovely music. There are some really catchy tunes and his
orchestral palette is just as luminous and colourful as ever.
He would probably have been able to set the telephone book with
equally happy results.
There is a great deal of detective work and research behind
this issue. The finished score was never published only the
piano/vocal score but through exhaustive digging in the archives
of the Theater an der Wien Christian Pollack found the manuscript
full score and orchestral parts, in very bad condition. He spent
six months reconstructing the music. Finally he was able to
present what the operetta sounded like at the first performance.
There was also some additional material including the overture
that Strauss composed for the 25th performance. The
spoken dialogue is not included; just as well. For repeated
listening I think most of us prefer the music only, unless it
be masterworks like Die Fledermaus or Die lustige
If Der Carneval in Rom, Strauss’s second operetta, which
I reviewed quite recently, was his ‘polka opera’, Die Göttin
der Vernunft must be his ‘march opera’. The march
is introduced at Captain Robert’s entrance in act I. It appears
several times as a kind of Leifmotif and is also the
closing music of the whole operetta: Der Schöpfung Meisterstück
ist der Husar. But the score abounds in lovely music. The
waltz in the act I finale is in his best vein. Other examples
include Ernestine’s fine song in act III and the duet opening
to act II incorporating a nice and well played violin solo by
The Slovak Sinfonietta may not be the Vienna Philharmonic but
they play this music as to the manner born and the chorus is
quite good. The solo singing is a bit variable. Generally speaking
the women win hands down. Veronika Groiss and Isabella Ma-Zach
– the latter also sings on the aforementioned recording of Der
Carneval in Rom – have several top numbers. Among the men
the veteran Franz Födinger is a splendid singing-actor, making
the most of the lovely waltz Schöne wilde Jugendzeit
(CD 1 tr. 11), which also returns briefly as the Entr’acte
before act III.
The recording was made live and there is applause at the end
of each act. That said, there are no disturbing stage noises
or reactions from the audience. I suppose it was a concert performance.
The recording balance varies a bit and especially in the first
act the male singers are quite distantly recorded. Apart from
this the sound is good.
The fillers are arrangements for orchestra of some of the items
in the operetta. This was a common method for Johann Strauss
to get new material for his own orchestra. Normally he made
the arrangements himself, but this time it seems that it was
only Wo uns’re Fahne weht!, with that favourite march
theme of mine (CD 2 tr. 9), that he managed to orchestrate.
The other titles were arranged closer to the present day, three
of them by Christian Pollack. The Divertissement for full
orchestra by Oscar Fetrás is an extended potpourri of most
of the melodic material in the operetta.
All lovers of Viennese operetta should lend their ear to this
issue. Don’t expect singing of the world class that EMI offered
in the sixties and seventies with singers like Rothenberger,
Streich, Gedda, Prey and Berry but the special charm of Strauss’s
music is splendidly caught even so.
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