Leo FALL (1873-1925)
Der Fidele Bauer - Operetta in a Prologue and Two Acts [110:05]
Lindoberer – Robert Bergmann (bass-baritone); Vincenz – Robert Maszl (tenor); Mattheus – Franz Suhrada (actor); Stefan – Eugene Amersmann (tenor); Annamirl – Laura Scherwitzl (soprano); Zopf. Obrigkeit/Leutnant bei den Husaren – Thomas Zisterer (baritone); Friederike – Romana Noack (soprano)
Choir of the Lehár Festivals
Franz Lehár Orchestra/Vinzenz Praxmarer
rec. Festspielsaal Bad Ischl, 23-25 August 2010
synopsis but no text or translations included
CPO 777 591-2 [66:13 + 43:52]

Leo Fall was a contemporary of Franz Lehár, like him the son of a military bandmaster. Despite a similarly large output he never managed the same degree of popularity. He is probably best known today, insofar as he is known at all outside specialist circles, for The Dollar Princess (1907), The Rose of Stamboul (1916) and Madame Pompadour (1922). Der Fidele Bauer predates all of these – it was first performed in July 1907 in Mannheim, reaching Vienna the next year. It has the great advantage of a libretto by Victor Léon who had earlier written the libretto for The Merry Widow.

The complex plot essentially concerns an Austrian peasant who ensures that his son has a good education only to find him ashamed of his father’s status when he becomes a Professor. In the final Act they are reconciled. The apparently intricate details of this are set out in a lengthy but to me impenetrable synopsis in the booklet, unhelpfully with no links to the track-listing. As a result of this and the lack of any translation of the sung portions, let alone the lengthy dialogue, for much of the time I was frankly unclear what was going on. However that did not stop me from greatly enjoying a thoroughly delightful score. Fall takes advantage of the many opportunities the plot provides to make much use of the idioms and sounds of Austrian folk music, as well as the more usual romantic moments of a kind familiar from the music of Lehár. Maybe there are only a few really memorable numbers, but the general standard is high, without any really dull items, and overall there is great variety of idiom and real rhythmic verve. It is the kind of operetta from which one is likely to emerge happy from the theatre having enjoyed the experience, but without recalling any of the tunes very distinctly.

The performance is above all idiomatic, as it should be following stage performances, pictures of which are included in the booklet. Not all of the singers have voices of great beauty but they clearly understand how to put the kind of music across convincingly. A Festival Overture based on themes from various composers of light opera, including in particular Sullivan and Johann Strauss, is used here as a Prelude to Act 2, and various minor additions appear to have been made to the score. I very much enjoyed hearing these discs but I doubt if I will want to listen to the German dialogue again, especially in view of the poor presentation of the discs. This may however not bother you; you may even enjoy it - although I seldom find even when I can follow it that I welcome repeated hearings of it. More importantly, here is a first rate opportunity to get to know a rare work by a very talented contemporary of Lehár, and one which certainly equals or even outclasses the lesser works of that master.

John Sheppard

First rate … a rare work by a very talented contemporary of Lehár … certainly equals or even outclasses the lesser works of that master.