As Brendan G. Carroll, President of the International Korngold
Society and the composer’s biographer, observes in his erudite
notes for this recording, ‘with the appearance of this CD production,
all of Korngold’s works are now recorded and The Silent
Serenade can be enjoyed at last, as one of the final
flowerings of the great Viennese operetta tradition.’
Interestingly the CPO packaging does not refer to this 2 CD
set as a world premiere recording? Possibly somebody is being
extra cautious since the radio premiere in March 1951 was recorded?
The history of the development of Die stumme Serenade
is convoluted. It was made over-complicated by numerous libretto
re-writes and meddling by too many would-be producers and impresarios.
All this caused such delays that by the time it was produced
on stage in 1954 its genre was considered to be hopelessly outdated.
It was then effectively shelved for sixty years.
The plot is equally convoluted. A nocturnal intruder gives a
sleeping Silvia Lombardi, who is engaged to the Prime Minister,
a passionate kiss - shades of Oscar Straus’s The Chocolate
Soldier. Her admirer is Silvia’s couturier, Andrea Coclé.
Then there is a bomb attempt on the Prime Minister’s life. Andrea
is persuaded to admit to both crimes on the promise that the
King will pardon him. But then the King dies.
A major difficulty with this 2 CD set is that unless you are
fluent in German you are unlikely to be able to follow the spoken
dialogue. There is a lot of it - some 40 to 45 minutes over
the two CDs – out of about 120 minutes total. It would have
been helpful if CPO had followed Naxos’s example of referring
purchasers to a web site where a multi-language text might have
Looking at the set’s booklet illustrations, The Young Opera
Company seems to have mounted a stage production of Die
stumme Serenade. The minimalist sets and the awful modern
dress costumes would give me pause before rushing out to buy
any DVD of this staging. However it must be emphasised that
this youthfully enthusiastic cast, all with sweet-timbred voices,
bring a welcome joie de vivre to the proceedings.
The orchestral resources are limited (see heading above) but
the inclusion of two pianos, celesta and exotic percussion brings
a luxuriant sound and atmosphere. For example, Silvia and Andre’s
ecstatic Act 2 ‘Die stumme Serenade’ duet is a gorgeous romantic
starry night evocation.
The overture material includes music adapted from Korngold’s
Much Ado About Nothing. There are sumptuously romantic
themes associated with the composer’s film scores such as Devotion,
Escape Me Never and, atmospherically, Another Dawn.
There are those typically Korngold fingerprints such as his
ecstatic leaps and sighing falls. The music adopts the typical
style of Viennese operetta with a preponderance of waltz songs.
There are so many memorable highlights. Just to mention a few:
Radde) rapturous aria ‘Lied zur Puppe’ and his ‘Ich hab
mich so verbleit’ against bird twitterings in the orchestra
– both from Act I; so too is Silvia’s (Sarah
Wegener) lovely ‘Lied Ein Modell von Coclé’. In supporting
roles, Anna-Lucia Leone and Sebastian Reich as the premier model
and Sam the reporter, amuse; their Act II ‘Interview’ duet is
‘knowingly’ witty and romantic.
Despite my reservations about the production of this 2 CD set,
the music - as Carroll states ‘a curious blend of opera, operetta
and revue’ - is ravishing. Just the thing for unrepentant romantics.
Subject: Die Stumme Serenade
Just read your review of the recent CPO recording of Korngold's operetta. Yes, the radio broadcast (perhaps it was broadcast more than once at the time) was recorded, but it has not had much circulation. Cambria recordings had said years ago that it wanted to release it, but they generally take their sweet time with their projects. (Cambria also has the Korngold Memorial concert done shortly after his death. Wonder if that will ever see the light of day?) I'll be very interested to hear this new recording, because the old broadcast is exquisitely done. The style and panache of the artists involved is likely impossible to duplicate, so completely steeped as they were in the ethos of the golden age of Viennese operetta. One interesting feature of the old performance occurs during one of the conversations between the characters, when Korngold's name is mentioned clearly. They speak of a Korngold melody being something special. Wink-wink! Thanks for the interesting review.
John McLaughlin Williams