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Leo FALL (1873-1925)
Madame Pompadour - operetta in three acts [77:24]
Madame Pompadour – Annette Dasch (soprano); The King – Heinz Zednik (tenor); René – Mirko Roschkowski (tenor); Madeleine – Elvira Soukop (mezzo); Belotte – Beate Ritter (soprano); Joseph Calicot – Boris Pfeifer (baritone)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Volksoper Wien/Andreas Schüller
rec. Volksoper Wien, June 2012
synopsis but no text or translation included
CPO 777 795-2 [77:24]

Madame Pompadour was first performed in Vienna in March 1922 and in London in December 1923. The latter ran for 469 performances and starred Evelyn Laye and Derek Oldham. They recorded a series of excerpts, once available on Pearl, but the adaptation for the London stage removed much of the work’s original character, making it sound more like an inferior musical comedy than a Viennese operetta.
 
Although I have not been able to compare it with a score of the original version, what is heard on this disc sounds very convincing in the arrangements, the orchestration and the type of voices used. Having complained when reviewing earlier discs of Fall about performances which fail in these respects (Rose of Stambul on Naxos) it is a great pleasure to listen to one so faithful to the basic character of the music. As a result what we hear is an immensely enjoyable version of what is often described as the composer’s best work.
 
The operetta, best described as being vaguely connected with historical events, is set in Paris in the time of the French King Louis XV when his mistress was Madame de Pompadour. The latter is very much the main character along with Count René, who falls in love with her but, after a series of unlikely coincidences, returns to his wife who is revealed to be the Pompadour’s sister.
 
I have not seen it on stage and cannot comment on how convincing it is there, but from the helpful and detailed synopsis in the booklet I see no reason why it could not be successful again. Much would depend on the casting, and you would be lucky to encounter as idiomatic a performance as this. The only name familiar to me was that of Heinz Zednik, at one time a favourite character tenor and here making much of the by no means large part of the King. All the rest, including the two main characters, also sing with obvious understanding of the nature of the work and I never found myself regretting the lack of voices with more obvious star quality. This is above all an ensemble production, and this suits the work admirably. No dialogue is included and no text or translations are provided. However the synopsis is full and clear and is more than enough to give the context and gist of each number … and what numbers. The most obvious “hits” are the duet Josef, ach Josef and the waltz Madame Pompadour, Kronjuwel der Natur but the whole work is full of charm, variety and musical interest. It is good to have such a stylish version of a now sadly neglected operetta.
 
John Sheppard