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Leo FALL (1873 - 1925)
Die Rose von Stambul (The Rose of Stambul) (1916)
Kimberly McCord (soprano) - Kondja Gül; Alison Kelly (soprano) - Midili Hanum; Erich Buchholz (tenor) - Fridolin Müller; Gerald Frantzen (tenor) - Achmed Bey; Robert Morrissey (bass) - Mr. Müller Sr; Sarah Bockel (mezzo) - Bül-bül / Durlane; Malia Ropp (soprano) - Fatme; Julia Tarlo (soprano) - Emine; Nicole Hill (soprano) - Djamileh; Khaki Pixely (mezzo-soprano) - Güzela; Michelle Buck (soprano) - Desirée; Chris Guerra (baritone) - Kemal Pasha; Eric Casady (baritone) - Bell Hop; Aaron Benham (tenor) - Hotel Director; Josh Prisching (baritone) - Band Leader
Chicago Folks Operetta/John Frantzen
rec. live, Percy Julian Auditorium, Oak Park, Illinois, USA, 8 August 2011
The English libretto is available online
NAXOS 8.660326-27 [45:31 + 74:49]

Leo Fall was roughly contemporary with Franz Lehár and several of his operettas were great successes. Possibly the best of them, Die Dollarprinzessin, was premiered two years after Die lustige Witwe at the Theater an der Wien with the two singers in the leading roles who also had been Hanna Glawari and Danilo. Die Rose von Stambul, first seen in December 1916 at the same theatre, was the most successful opera in Vienna since Die lustige Witwe. It has been played quite often since then and was also filmed in the early 1950s. While the Lehár operettas are still highly attractive Leo Fall’s star has waned and though this recording is said to be identical with the original, it feels pale.
 
There are some nice numbers: the duet A faithful daughter of tradition (CD 1 tr. 6), O Rose of Stambul (CD 1 tr. 8, and returning on several occasions), another duet, I’ve never kissed a man before (CD 2 tr. 4), one more, Sir, I am ready (CD 2 tr. 6) and Goodness knows (CD 2 tr. 12). That said, there is a lot that is less distinguished and the spoken dialogue is sometimes interminable and rather pointless.
 
The story is thin, but many operettas are that and can still be appreciated. What is lacking here is high-level singing. There is one actor who stands out and that is Kimberly McCord in the central role of Konja Gül - the rest are rather mediocre. Gerald Frantzen sings the best known number, O Rose of Stambul, ably but uninterestingly. Anyone who has heard, say, Fritz Wunderlich will understand what I mean.
 
The orchestra playing is acceptable but undistinguished, the chorus is made up of members of the cast. There is no synopsis in the booklet, but that’s no great loss. With better singers and no dialogue this could have been a single CD of some importance, saving some of the best melodies of Leo Fall for posterity. As it is this is not a set I will return to.
 
Göran Forsling

Previous review: John Sheppard