Johann STRAUSS (1825 - 1899)
Prinz Methusalem - Komische Operette in drei Akten (1877)
Frank Ernst (tenor) - Sigismund, König von Trocadero; Jessica Glatte (soprano) - Pulcinella, seine Tochter; Herbert G. Adami (bass-baritone) - Marchese Carbonazzi; Elmar Andree (bass-baritone) - Graf Vulcanio; Gerd Wiemer (baritone) - Cyprian, König von Rikarak; Inka Lange (mezzo) - Sophistika, seine Frau; Jana Frey (mezzo) - Prinz Methusalem, deren Sohn; Andreas Sauerzapf (tenor) - Trombonius, Hofkomponist; Frank Oberüber (tenor) - Dirigatius, ein Dirigent; Marcus Günzel (baritone) - Mandelbaum, ein Agent; Hans-Jürgen Wiese (baritone) - Feuerstein, ein Agent; Herbert G. Adami (bass-baritone) - Nachtwächter; Chor und Orchester der Staatsoperette Dresden/Ernst Theis
Bonus: Two duets Pulcinella - Methusalem in the version for baritone and soprano
Christian Grygas (baritone) - Prinz Methusalem; Isabell Schmitt (soprano) - Pulcinella;
rec. 17-19, 28 August 2010, Alter Schlosshof, Dresden.
Synopsis, liner-notes and biographies in German and English
CPO 777 747-2 [48:04 + 55:02]
Prinz Methusalem is the third unknown operetta by Johann Strauss that has been presented by the very adventurous Staatsoperette in Dresden. There is a common theme in all three: the life of the artist. The situation 135 years ago was very similar to the situation today: the arts are short of money. I reviewed Der Carnival in Rom a while ago and was enthusiastic about the music, less so concerning the story. Not all the singing was top notch but by and large this remains an attractive operetta, well worth seeking out. My colleague Ian Lace found even more to admire in his review of Das Spitzentuch der Königin. ‘... an album not to be missed. Scintillating.’ was his final verdict. Carneval was set in Italy, Spitzentuch in Portugal and Methusalem even more exotically deals with the animosity between two tiny fictional countries, Trocadero and Riccarac, where there are more artists than soldiers. The daughter of one king falls in love with the son of the other and in the end everything is as it was before, only that the two kings have changes countries! Trocadero and Riccarac have a French flavour and this is Strauss’s most French of operettas with more than a whiff of Paris. Offenbach’s shadow looms over some of the ensembles.
It seems that Johann Strauss was unable to write a dull melody. Like the two operettas already mentioned this one brims with lovely music. The lively and charming overture is, as always lushly orchestrated. The musical numbers are connected with abridged - I presume - dialogue, just enough to get the gist of the story. Since most of it is full of life you get an all-embracing theatrical experience. It is a pity, though, that we don’t get the full libretto in print. Even for those who are fairly fluent in German it is difficult to catch every syllable.
Pulcinella has a catchy arietta in the first act (CD 1 tr. 6) and a beautiful solo a little later: Mein Vater hat mir gestern streng befohlen (CD 1 tr. 8). After a brief dialogue her duet with Methusalem (tr. 10) is very nice. The act I finale is one of the highlights with beautiful orchestral writing with solo violin. First class Strauss!
The second act opens with a splendid chorus (CD 2 tr. 1) but the night watchman is shaky. There is an excellent quintet (tr. 3), a bit noisy though, and a lovely romance for Pulcinella (tr. 6). King Sigismund’s couplet (tr. 8) is another top-drawer piece and the act II finale is full of esprit. In the third act Methusalem sings a fine Generalslied (tr. 18). Then follows the number we are always waiting for in any Strauss operetta, a waltz duet (tr. 20). Here the waltz king is unbeatable.
As in several other Strauss operettas this one also has a trouser role, Prinz Methusalem. In the early 20th century producers tended to choose a baritone for the title role instead. In an appendix we hear two duets for Pulcinella and Methusalem in that version. The baritone part is beautifully sung by Christian Grygas, but I still prefer the original.
The singing is mostly very good and in particular Jessica Glatte is excellent as Pulcinella. The two previous operettas were recorded live but there were no signs of an audience or stage noises; nor are there here. I suppose, if they recorded it live, that there were some mopping up sessions afterwards.
Lovers of Viennese operetta will be delighted with this latest offering from Staatsoperette Dresden. It is only to be hoped that it sells so well that CPO can continue this series.
Göran Forsling
Lovers of Viennese operetta will be delighted with this latest offering.