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Carl MILLÖCKER (1842-1899)
Gasparone an operetta in two acts (1884) [105:44]
libretto by Friedrich Zell & Richard Genée
Benozzo - Thomas Malik (tenor); Massaccio - Tomaz Kovacic (baritone); Count Erminio Saluzzó - Thomas Zisterer (tenor); Nasoni, Burgermeister - Gerhard Ernst (baritone); Sara - Melanie Schneider (soprano); Countess Carlotta - Miriam Portmann (soprano); Zenobia - Rita Peterl (soprano); Sindulfo - Roman Martin (tenor); Luigi - Claudiu Sola (vocals); Marietta - Jennifer Treusch (mezzo); Lieutenant - Wolfgang Gerold (tenor)
Chorus of Lehár Festivals Bad Ischl, Franz Lehár Orchestra/Marius Burkert
rec. Festspielsaal Bad Ischl, 19-21 August 2013
Contents list at end of review
CPO 777 815-2 [2 CDs: 105:44]

This opera enjoyed considerable popularity when it first appeared at Theater an der Wien, Vienna in 1884 before being transferred to Berlin. It reached New York by 1887 at the Standard Theatre, after the outstandingly warm reception of Der Bettelstudent there two years earlier. These two operas marked Millöcker’s golden years, in which he amassed considerable wealth. In Gasparone Millöcker had made a success of his treatment of a poor book, provided by Zell & Genée. During the following decades the show was revised a number of times for various revivals by Millöcker himself, always striving for perfection. A successful film version by director, Georg Jacoby was made in 1937 in Germany with revue singer and dancer, Marika Rökk in the star part. Another important revival took place at the Vienna Volksoper in 1980 and from it the operetta has lived on.
 
Within the plot’s original 1820 Sicilian backdrop we find the local mayor short of cash. He suggests his son should marry the wealthy Countess Carlotta as this would solve the family’s debts. Local innkeeper, Benozzo, who makes ends meet as a smuggler called Gasparone, owes the mayor back-rent and so is bribed to help with the mayor’s scheme. However, a nobleman comes to the village and is enamoured of the countess and upsets their plan. The nobleman uncovers the smuggling racket and now forces the innkeeper to play a prank on the mayor by kidnapping his son to maintain his silence about the smuggling capers. The plot becomes heavily convoluted as they generally can be in the world of operetta; not unlike Der Battelstudent where a countess desperate for income gets embroiled by a fake millionaire’s prank, passing off a student prisoner as a count. The production as performed here in 2013 is updated to carry mafia overtones.
 
The Mediterranean setting gives an opportunity for colourful dances, nicely dressed sets and interesting music. Millöcker’s score follows the Straussian tradition and includes the obligatory waltz in some of its numbers: in fact there are places where I am strongly reminded of Lehár’s The Merry Widow. Unusually for a composer, the second act entr’acte is longer than the first Act Introduction; there is no overture. We can hear how skilful Millöcker is at setting the mood of a scene in his orchestration of the opening of numbers and at setting melody lines.
 
The soloists are first class and sing well. Carlotta is particularly strong with a wide register and warm-toned in the dolce passages of the excellent Act 1 duet, Wie frau ich mich [tr. 12] when she is joined by an equally enchanting Count Erminio. Surprisingly, her next solo track suffers from brittle top notes that tends to disperse the initial charm. Zenobia and Benozzo provide good supporting roles. In a few places, my personal choice would have been for the orchestra not to be as forwardly placed to allow better focus on the singer. The recording is excellent, with the orchestra well balanced and bathed in a warm acoustic in which the wind and horns are nicely located. A stirring, powerfully-sung finale to Act I is most enjoyable.
 
The singers act and speak as convincingly as they sing, for the recording contains spoken lines, sufficient to give fair continuity to the musical numbers. Unlike a number of CD distributors, CPO have given separate track numbers to sections of speech so that dialogue places can be skipped on playback. There is no libretto and CPO do not offer the facility to view the libretto on-line and it is not freely available elsewhere. Even where a typeset copy is offered it is rarely printed within the booklet because of the extra weight of pages that pushes postage into a higher band. Sad as it is this is the truth. In the absence of a libretto it would have been helpful if the synopsis carried the track numbers as the plot develops. The booklet contains good notes by Alexander Dick, both in German and English and is supported by a number of pictures of the production.
 
Raymond J Walker
  
Contents List

CD 1
Introduction [1:52]
Wi-hu (Benozzo, Massaccio, Chorus) [6:31]
Scene: Wieder eine Ladung (Benozzo, Massaccio, Erminio) [2:21]
Erscheinen wir (Nasoni, Chorus) [5:44]
Scene: Wirtschaft (Nasoni, Sora, Benozzo) [0:48]
Ensemble: Da ist sie (Carlotta, Sora, Benozzo, Massaccio, Nasoni, Erminio, Chorus) [10:45]
Scene: Ein schoner Mann (Sora, Carlotta, Nasoni) [0:53]
Abgang [0:18]
Scene: Teure Carlotta (Nasoni, Carlotta, Zenobia) [2:09]
Scene: Wenn diese Heirat (Nasoni, Sindulfo) [1:23]
Scene: Ja die Liebe (Erminio) [0:46]
Duet: Wie freu'ich mich (Carlotta, Erminio) [5:42]
Scene: Was soll das bedeuten? (Carlotta) [0:15]
Finale: Hort von fern (Carlotta, Sora, Zenobia, Benozzo, Massaccio, Erminio, Luigi, Nasoni, Chorus) [14:33]
 
CD 2
Entr'acte [2:40]
Scene: Wie geht es der Frau Grafin? (Marietta, Sora, Zenobia, Carlotta) [1:04]
Couplet: Ja, ja, er ist nicht ohne (Zenobia) [1:44]
Scene: Lieber Conte (Nasoni, Carlotta, Erminio) [0:38]
Scene: Er kommt, er kommt (Nasoni, Marietta, Sora, Benozzo) [0:57]
Scene: Durch dieses Schlosses (Carlotta, Zenobia, Erminio, Nasoni, Chorus) [3:03]
Scene: Ach meine Sora! (Benozzi, Sora) [1:13]
Duet: S'ist gar nicht schon (Sora, Benozzo) [6:49]
Scene: Stellen Sie sich vor (Carlotta) [0:45]
Duet: Dunkel breitet sich (Carlotta, Erminio) [8:36]
Finale: Herein, herein (Carlotta, Sora, Marietta, Zenobia, Benozzo, Sindulfo, Massaccio, Nasoni) [10:25]
Die Carabiniers marschieren (Leutnant, Chorus) [1:24]
Scene: Das Standrecht (Benozzo, Sora) [0:54]
Waltz: Er soll dein Herr sein (Benozzo) [3:06]
Scene: Dieser Gasparone (Nasoni, Sindulfo) [0:47]
Scene: Um Gottes Willen (Nasoni, Erminio) [1:23]
Septet: Herr Podesta (Carlotta, Sora, Zenobia, Benozzo, Sindulfo, Massaccio, Erminio, Nasoni) [4:15]
Scene: Die Verhandlung ist geschlossen (Nasoni, Erminio) [0:21]
Closing: Gasparone scheint Besserung (Carlotta, Sora, Zenobia, Benozzo, Sindulfo, Massaccio, Erminio, Nasoni, Chorus) [1:21]