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Johann STRAUSS II (1825 – 1899)
Eine Nacht in Venedig (1883)
Herbert Lippert (tenor) – Kapitän der Herzog von Urbino; Richard Samek (tenor) – Caramello; Otto Jaus (tenor) – Enrico Piselli; Heinz Zednik (tenor) – Senator Delaqua; Dagmar Schellenberger (mezzo) – Barbara; Joesi Prokopetz – Senator Barbaruccio; Verena Scheitz (mezzo) – Agricola; Ernst-Dieter Suttheimer (tenor) – Senator Testaccio; Marina Alsen – Constantia; Annika Gerhards (soprano) – Annina; Jeffrey Treganza (baritone) – Pappacoda; Barbara Pöltl (soprano) – Ciboletta
Mörbisch Festival Choir
Mörbisch Festival Orchestra/Andreas Schüller
rec. Mörbisch Seefestspiele, 28 June 2015

Eine Nacht in Venedig found no success at its Berlin premiere in 1883. Strauss reworked it for the Viennese premiere a week later where it ran for 44 consecutive performances. It was not until 1923, when it was presented at the Theater an der Wien with Richard Tauber as Urbino and in a revised, re-orchestrated version by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, that it was established as one of the three great Strauss operettas. In last year’s (2015) production at Seefestspiele Mörbisch the director, Karl Absenger and Joesi Prokopetz, who also features here as Senator Barbaruccio, adapted the libretto and transferred it to present time. The central character, the inveterate skirt-chaser Duke Guido of Urbino, is here captain of the cruiser “Duke of Urbino”, at anchor in Venice. The amorous adventures take place with the cruiser as backdrop.

The story is notoriously complicated but we needn’t bother too much when listening to this recording with only the musical numbers and no spoken dialogue. The synopsis is brief and gives only the gist of the proceedings, which probably will be enough for most listeners. Obviously recorded at one specific performance there is the usual hazard of occasional slips and certain singers being in less than opulent form throughout the evening. There is however fairly little that goes wrong. Both Annina (Annika Gerhards) and Caramello (Richard Samek) start a little hesitantly in their entrance songs. Only moments later when they meet in the duet (tr. 7) they are in good shape and in the act I finale Caramello is excellent in Komm in die Gondel (tr. 12); likewise Annina’s short song at the beginning of act II is first class. Ciboletta (Barbara Pöltl) and Pappacoda (Jeffrey Treganza) are also a well matched couple, one a nice soubrette the other a skilful character singer. When the four get together in the quartet Alle maskiert (tr. 8) we get that Viennese lilt, so typical of Johann Strauss we feel quite at home: This is the way operetta should be sung and played.

Barbara is sung by the experienced Dagmar Schellenberger, who in 2012 took over as General Director of the festival, after legendary Harald Serafin who brought Mörbisch to international recognition during his reign of twenty years. Ms Schellenberger’s Barbara is a mature woman, still attractive and thus the target for the captain’s advances. Barbara’s husband Senator Delaqua is sung by veteran tenor Heinz Zednik who never lets a character role down.

Herbert Lippert, who has been one of the leading German Mozart tenors for many years (his Tamino in the Naxos Zauberflöte a great achievement) has many strings to his bow and even stepped in for an ailing colleague as Siegmund in Die Walküre some years ago. As operetta lead I have encountered him as Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus and Barinkay in Der Zigeunerbaron. Quite logically he now dons the Captain’s uniform with equal success, his smooth, his well equalized voice in perfect shape. He is at his best in act III where Lagunenwalzer is sung with Viennese Schmalz.

The orchestral and choral forces are, as expected, well versed in the repertoire and Andreas Schüller has good credentials as operetta conductor, having been for several years Kapellmeister at the Wiener Volksoper and since 2013 chief conductor at Staatsoperette Dresden. The recorded sound is fully acceptable, considering the outdoor location, and though this obviously was a live recording there are no obtrusive noises and no applause.

Among the recordings of Eine Nacht in Venedig I still have a soft spot for Otto Ackermann’s 1954 recording on Columbia (available on Naxos) with a starry cast including Schwarzkopf, Gedda and Kunz. It is in mono. Those needing a stereo version can instead invest in the Electrola re-make from the late 1960s with Gedda (again) and Rothenberger. The present version is spirited and on the whole well sung and played and shouldn’t disappoint lovers of operetta.

Göran Forsling



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