Oscar STRAUS (1870-1954)
Die Lustigen Nibelungen (The Merry Nibelungs) - Operetta in three Acts (1904) [65:00]
Gunther – Martin Gantner (baritone); Ute – Daphne Evangelatos (mezzo); Dankwart – Gerd Grockowski (bass-baritone); Volker – Hein Heidbüchel (tenor); Giselher – Gabriele Henkel (soprano); Kriemhild – Lisa Griffith (soprano); Hagen – Josef Otten (bass); Siegfried – Michael Nowak (tenor); Brunhilde – Gudrun Volkert (mezzo); Vogel – Christine Mann (soprano)
WDR Rundfunkchor and Rundfunkorchester Köln/Siegfried Köhler
rec. Funkhaus, Köln, 31 January-17 February 1995
synopsis but no text or translation included
CAPRICCIO C5088 [65:00]

The title alone will intrigue; the names of the characters will then confirm that this is indeed an operetta based partly on Wagner’s mighty work and even more on one of his main sources – The Nibelungenlied. It was first performed in Vienna in 1904 with great success which was repeated when it was performed in Berlin. Similar success elsewhere in Germany was however soon halted with the rise of that very militarism which the libretto satirises. Straus moved first to Austria and then to France and the USA.

Nowadays, insofar as he is known at all, Straus is known for his later, more sentimental albeit still delightful, works such as A Waltz Dream and The Chocolate Soldier. That said, the present work is to my mind by some way his most enjoyable piece. Unlike those other works this is essentially a continuation of the satiric style of Offenbach.with the addition of a few more typically Viennese elements and a few (surprisingly few) references to Wagner. As a whole this works superbly, with terrific spirit and energy of a kind equalled only by Offenbach himself.

None of the performers can be said to be household names and none have voices of obvious inherent greatness. More important, however, all have the necessary ability to present the work at its best. Diction is excellent, as it needs to be in the absence of a text or translation and with a good booklet synopsis rendered less helpful by omitting track numbers. The absence of dialogue on the other hand is entirely an advantage in the absence of the text.

Operetta on disc can fall very flat, but on this disc there is nothing but pure delight from beginning to end. This is a reissue but none the less welcome for that.

John Sheppard

Pure delight from beginning to end.