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Collection: TREASURES OF OPERETTA    Marilyn Hill Smith (sop); Peter Morrison (bar); Ambrosian Singers; The Chandos Singers; The Chandos Concert Orchestra condcuted by Barry Knight 2CDs CHANDOS CHAN 7131(2) [139:13]
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This is a sparkling collection of 36 operetta selections. The many composers represented include: Johann Strauss II, Oscar Strauss, André Messager, Victor Herbert, Emmerich Kálmán; Franz Lehar; Carl Zeller; Lionel Monckton; Carl Millöcker; Robert Stolz; Carl Michael Ziehrer; and Richard Tauber. Many of the tunes will be familiar even if the names are not, like the lovely 'Let me dance and let me sing' from Die Csárdásfürstin by Kálmán and 'My Hero' from The Chocolate Soldier by Oscar Strauss. Favourite operettas are included: The Merry Widow, Casanova, The White Horse Inn and Merry England

The performances may not reach the peaks achieved by the Viennese orchestras and singers like Hilde Guedon, Renate Holm, Gundala Janowitz, Erik Kunz, Werner Krenn and Richard Tauber, nevertheless the Chandos artists show great enthusiasm and commitment. Marilyn Hill Smith's light soprano voice is ideal for many of these songs and her colaratura singing is very impressive in operettas like Der Schätzmeister (Ziehrer), and Der arme Jonathan (Millõcker) in which she her voice soars over 'The Doleful Prima Donna.' She is marvellous as the amusing Sybil (Jacobi) in which she sings the marching song 'The Colonel of the Crimson Hussars.' Where she is not so successful is in the later operettas of Lehar where he was approaching the style of grand opera. In Giuditta a smokier more seductive voice (like that of Hilde Gueden) is needed to successfully put over 'On my lips every kiss is like wine.'

Peter Morrison is a strong if adenoidy hero. He colours his voice so that he sounds extraordinarily like Richard Tauber and Nelson Eddy when he comes to sing those numbers associated with them like 'My Heart and I' from Old Chelsea and 'At the Balalaika' from Balalaika (Victor Herbert) respectively. He is a robust and ardent romantic hero and a staunch patriot in the stirring 'The Yeoman of the Guard from Edward German's Merrie England. Morrison is also charmingly witty, when he muses over his many lady friends, as he endures the rigours of 'Military Life' from Der Fremdenführer; and as he despairs about his wife's figure in 'Thin, thin is my Gwendolin' from Ziehrer's Die drei Wünsche.

The choirs give staunch support as does the Chandos Concert Orchestra under Barry Knight who points up the often hilarious subtleties of the music like the orchestral horse laughs that comment on the heroine's 'Scale Song' from Ziehrer's Der Schätzmeister.

In conclusion I must mention the very impressive rendition of Johann Strauss's 'The Nun's Chorus and Laura's Song from Casanova.

An enchanting collection.


Ian Lace


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