Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Der Graf von Luxembourg (The Count of Luxembourg) (1909) - Operetta film, 1972
René, Graf von Luxembourg - Eberhard Wächter
Angèle Didier - Lilian Sukis
Fürst Basil Basilowitsch - Erich Kunz
Armand Brissard - Peter Fröhlich
Juliette Vermont - Helga Papouschek
Gräfin Stasa Kokozow - Jane Tilden
Pélègrin - Kurt Sowinetz
Pawlowitsch - George Corten
Mentschikoff - Kut Zips
Symphony Orchestra Kurt Graunke, Munich/Walter Goldschmidt
rec. Munich (?) 1972
PCM Stereo; Picture Format: 4.3; Subtitles: Deutsch, English, French; Region Code: 0
ARTHAUS DVD 101 626 [96:00]
The Count of Luxembourg was one of Lehár’s most popular triumphs. It opened at the Theatre an der Wien on 12 November 1909. The public adored it. It ran for 299 performances in Vienna and took German theatres by storm. King George V and Queen Mary attended the London premiere with Lehár himself conducting. One critic noted that “There is many a number in The Count of Luxembourg which Sullivan would not have refused to acknowledge.” “The waltzes (like ‘Tell Me Can This Be Love?’), already familiar to Londoners from dance arrangements, proved the most appealing attraction, sweeping Britain into yet another Lehár frenzy” (Operetta, A Theatrical History by Richard Traubner). The first London production ran for 345 performances at Daly’s Theatre. Successes in New York and Paris followed.
This production of The Count of Luxembourg is described as an ‘operetta film’; however, unlike Arthaus’s operetta film of Lehár’s Paganini, a good proportion of which was filmed en plein aire,this one is studio-bound. This is not such a bad notion considering how daft the plot is; a touch of realism might only point up its idiocies and destroy its charm. As is usual in operetta the story revolves around a series of preposterous notions and coincidences. The spendthrift Count René of Luxembourg is strapped for cash and is only too happy to consider any scheme to refill his pockets. Ageing Prince Basil Basilowitsch is in love with Parisian opera singer, Angèle Didier. He cannot marry her because she is not of the same aristocratic class, so Basil offers René 100,000 francs if he will marry Angèle thus automatically making her a Countess. René, then has to leave his bride immediately after the marriage ceremony and return only after three months have elapsed to divorce Angèle on the grounds that the marriage has not been consummated. This then leaves the way clear for Basil to marry Angèle who is quite happy with the whole idea; she does not believe in romantic love. To add to all this confusion, the mock wedding itself is bizarre: bride and groom are not allowed to see each other. A screen is erected between them and a whole punched through it so that they can only touch hands to exchange rings. All this had been arranged by the artist Armand Brissard who himself is having girlfriend trouble. She, Juliette Vermont, is a model and dancer and is fed up waiting for Armand to propose marriage. Needless to say complications follow. Angèle and René fall in love much to Basil’s annoyance but all ends happily with the three couples united.
The costumes are gorgeous, lighting and sets attractive and the acting, for the most part, good. Operatic singers stiffen the operetta roles. Most of the arias are waltz songs. Hunky Eberhard Wächter in the title role, rises with aplomb to its demanding part, the tessitura of which straddles baritone and tenor registers. Lilian Sukis as Angèle is beautiful and sophisticated, her golden soprano marvellously controlled across her range particularly in its high register. Helga Papouschek pouts sweetly and is a honeyed Juliette. Deep-voiced Erich Kunz makes a dapper and dashing but dignity-affronted Basil and nearly steals every scene in which he appears.
An enchanted evening of romance and comedy with some of Lehár’s loveliest waltz songs delivered by a first class ensemble of singers.
Ian Lace
An enchanted evening of romance and comedy.