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Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1882 – 1953)
Die Faschingsfee, Operetta in 3 acts (1917)
Fürstin Alexandra Maria – Camille Schnoor (soprano)
Herzog Ottokar von Grevlingen – Erwin Windegger (vocals)
Baron Hubert von Mützelberg – Simon Schnorr (baritone)
Graf Lothar Mereditt – Maximilian Mayer (tenor)
Viktor Ronai, Maler – Daniel Prohaska (tenor)
Lori Aschenbrenner, Choristin – Nadine Zeintl (soprano)
Chor & Orchester des Staats theaters am Gärtnerplatz/Michael Brandstätter
rec. live, 2017, Alte Kongresshalle, Munich
Synopsis included
CPO 555 147-2 [76:43]

Emmerich Kálmán’s operettas seem to be in vogue at the moment. A couple of years ago I reviewed Die Bajadere and the present issue, Die Faschingsfee, is the third this year (2019), after Kaiserin Josephine and Ein Herbstmanöver. I was very satisfied with Die Bajadere, which is from his golden period in the 1920s, less so with Kaiserin Josephine, which was written in 1936 when the Nazis were marching and it felt a bit like Kálmán with water. Ein Herbstmanöver was his very first operetta, and though there are many signs of a budding star composer it doesn’t seem mature enough. Die Faschingsfee is based on Zsuzsi kisasszony, which premiered in Budapest in 1915 and via a heavily revised version titled Miss Springtime was seen on Broadway in 1916 reached Vienna the following year. In the wake of Die Csárdásfürstin which was his great breakthrough in Vienna in 1915, Die Faschingsfee must have felt pale, though there are some highly enjoyable melodies, where one feels Kálmán’s magic fingers at work. But the general impression is rather sprawling and the performance is enthusiastic but hardly sophisticated. The story takes place in Munich on Shrove Thuesday 1917 – considering the fact that the Vienna premiere was in September the same year the plot was really up-to-date – where the young painter Viktor meets an unknown beauty whom he becomes magically attracted to. It turns out that she is a real Princess who is about to be married to a much older Duke the next day. The attraction is mutual and, to make a long story somewhat shorter, it all ends up with Viktor and Alexandra – that’s the Princess’ name – singing in the final scene Sei die Meine, du, die Eine (Be mine, you the only one!)

The operetta opens with a fanfare like overture – or Faschingsmusik, Fasching is German for Carnival – followed with some dialogue with orchestral background, Melodrama. From that background soon emerges a lovely melody with a beautiful cello solo, leading over to Alexandra’s song Liebe, ich sehn’ mich nach dir (tr. 3) – a beautiful piece in ž-time – a true operetta waltz. It is well sung, too, and Camilla Schnoor in the role is the only really classy singer here. In the duet with Viktor Seh’n sich zwei nur einmal (tr. 5) she again sings very well. Daniel Prohaska as Viktor is more a character singer and actor and not the operetta hero one expects, but throughout he is enthusiastic and expressive, and that goes for the entire ensemble. There are some typical czardas rhythms and melodies – try tr. 25 for instance – and the final song, quoted above, is again a beautiful waltz. Most numbers are short, there is a kind of nervousness about the whole performance and consequently there are high spirits all the way, in particular in the ensembles. There is a great deal of spoken dialogue, but I suppose it is foreshortened anyway. Though it seems that the performances were recorded before an audience but there are no extraneous noises anywhere, until we reach the very end which is greeted with an enthusiastic round of applause. I suppose I would have appreciated Die Faschingsfee more if I had seen it as well. As it is we are treated to a couple of numbers from Kálmán’s top drawer, but that isn’t enough to give it a general recommendation. Kálmán completists – I suppose there must be some – will need it of course, but others, who already know Die Czárdásfürstin and Gräfin Mariza and want something less familiar, should in the first place turn to Die Bajadere. The present offering is, I would say, basically for those who saw the Munich performances and want a souvenir.

Göran Forsling

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