RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Die stumme Serenade (The Silent Serenade) - Musical Comedy in Two Acts (1946-1950) [118:33]
Silvia Lombardi, an actress - Sarah Wegener
Andrea Coclé, a fashion designer - Birge Radde
Benedetto Lugarini (Prime Minister)/Carlo Marcellini/Pater Orsenigo - Frank Buchwald
Police Commissioner Caretto - Werner Klockow
Louise, head model in Coclé’s salon - Anna-Lucia Leone
Sam Borzalino, a reporter - Sebastian Reich
Young Opera Company
Holst-Sinfonietta (Delphine Roche (flute); Julien Laffaire (clarinet); Adrian Romaniuc (percussion); Hans Fuhlbom (first piano and celesta); Maria Bachmann (second piano); Aysen Ulucan (first violin); Kirstin Vielhaber (second violin); Marie Schmit (cello))/Klaus Simon
rec. EWERK (Grosser Saal) Freiberg, Germany, 20-24 April 2009
CPO 777 485-2 [63:24 + 55:09]
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All this caused such delays that by the time it was produced on stage in 1954 its genre was considered to be hopelessly outdated.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 been available.
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: Andrea’s (Birger 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.
Just the thing for unrepentant romantics.