Operette, Operette

 

Es ist ja kein Geheimnis, dass die vor allem deutsche Operette sich erst langsam wieder von Nazi-Erbe und Nachkriegsmuff erholt (wenn denn überhaupt). Immer wieder wird mit Recht auf die große Kluft zwischen  der Entstehungszeit vieler dieser Musenkinder und der Nachkriegs-Aufführungstradition hingewiesen (dazu auch die vielen Beiträge auf der verdienstvollen, spritzigen Website des ORCA) . Eine Ingeborg Hallstein oder Margit Schramm ist eben keine Massary (deren hinreißendes Groß-Portrait a l´espagnol im Märkischen Museum in Berlin schlecht  beleuchtet vor sich hin hängt). Sicher ist der Weg von Barrie Kosky an der Komischen Oper Berlin nur einer von anderen möglichen, die Operette wieder zu beleben und sie von ihrer zwischendurch behafteten Biederkeit zu befreien, die ihr einen so schlechten Namen gegeben hat. Die Wiener Aufnahmen der Fünfziger unter Max Schönherr zeigen noch viel von dem Vorkriegs-Flair der Leichten Bretter und sind zudem mit einem Elan gesungen, wie sie das gestandene Repertoire bei Ariola oder EMI nicht einmal streifte. Ähnlich Marszalek beim (N)WDR in seiner ersten Radio-Staffel finden sich hier die Perlen des Repertoires und vor allem die frischen Kehlen dazu. Die ausländische Operette hat diese Auf-und-Abs weniger gehabt, namentlich die französische, die zumindest im (O)RTF-Radio unverstellt bis in die Gegenwart gegeben wird und nun gerade dank der Bemühungen des Palazetto Bru Zane eine ungemeine Renaissance erlebt, wie sich mit Hervés Nonsense-Werk Les Chévaliers de la table ronde jüngst in Venedig und in zahlreichen Städten unseres Nachbarn zeigt – da kommt noch einiges auf uns zu, auch diskographisch. Und auch die Spanier haben ihre Zarzuela (die ja nicht unbedingt eins zu eins eine Operette ist) stets im Repertoire gehalten und von hervorragenden Künstlern aufführen lassen.

Die Download-Firma opera-club.net hat nun einige  davon in ihrer Label-Serie Fledermaus ausgebuddelt, angereichert mit ein paar Ausflügen ins amerikanischen Broadway-Theater der Vierziger und dem zweiten Band ihrer Operetten-Ausschnitte mit beliebten Sängern der letzten 100 Jahre (wo man genau die eingangs erwähnten Vorbehalte nachempfinden kann). Passend dazu gibt´s die Texte von opera-club in Englisch. G. H.

 

First there are two less successful works of Johann Strauss II. Both works have been totally forgotten, with every now and then the exception of a theater that took the chance to present it, but it never became a real success. However, they’re certainly worth listening to, and they should be part of every Strauss collection.. Prinz Methusalem is an operetta written by Johann Strauss II after a libretto of Karl Treumann, after Victor Wilder and Alfred Delacourt. The first performance was on January 3, 1877 in Vienna at the Carltheater . It would make a run of 80 performances.
Johann Strauss originally had Paris in mind for his Prinz Methusalem. After the second version of his operetta Indigo and the forty robbers was performed with great success in Paris in 1875, and a French version of Die Fledermaus was in its making, he was hoping for a premiere in the French capital. For lack of a contract this operetta had to be premiered, other than planned for, in Vienna.  A few days after the premiere Strauss left for Paris, where no one was interested in this work, and it was disposed as a bad Offenbach. The work got forgotten and was revived in Dresden, where it was successfully performed in 2010 (Wien 1958/ Max Schönherr mit Dororethea Sibert, William Wernigk u.a.)

Cagliostro in Wien, the premiere was on February 27, 1875 in the Theater an der Wien. It was very successful, not in the least because of the audience’s favorite Alexander Girardi (1850-1918) as Blasoni. Another remarkable performer at the premiere was Marie Geistinger (1836-1903), who sang the role of Rosalinde in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. Yet the work didn’t have success for long. The libretto was too weak and the music didn’t have the quality of his earlier works. These shortcomings were corrected in a version with a reviewed libretto of Gustav Quedenfeldt and music by Karl Tutein (who used themes from the already present Kaiser-Walzer ), that was premiered on May 8, 1941 in Danzig (Gdansk). It didn’t become a masterpiece, but it’s worth getting to know (Ausschnitte mit Mirjana Irosch, Eva Tanassi, Peter Minich u. a; Köln 1983/ Leopold Hager/ Fledermaus FM-1019).

 

lehar fürstenkind  opera-clubFranz Lehár was convinced his Das Fürstenkind would become a great and everlasting success. But the music had too much of a tendency towards opera and the libretto too much towards Kitsch. Eva also suffered from a bad libretto, but is musically on a higher scale than Das Fürstenkind. The Spanish performance with Alfredo Kraus is interesting, but feels more like a zarzuela than an operetta. Das Fürstenkind has always been an “insider’s tip” in Lehár’s oeuvre, and the composer himself regarded this robbers’ tale from Greece premiered in 1909 as one of his best works. It was also his problem child because it never became a sensational success. The reason may have been due to the works blurring of boundaries between opera and operetta. (Wien 1960/ Max Schönherr, mit Rudolf Christ, Else Lieesberg).

Eva has never been much of a success and set beside some of his other stage-works the musical – or rather – melodic inspiration seems a bit meagre. The only hit-song is Eva’s Lied early in act I ,Wär es auch nichts als ein Augenblick” ,which also appears a couple of times later on in the operetta as a kind of Leitmotif. There are good enough melodies of typical Lehár Schmalzand a great deal of light-hearted rhythmic dances, but they tend to slip out of one’s memory as soon as they are over. What is obvious though is his masterly handling of the orchestra and more than in any other operetta I know gives grateful and attractive solos to many of the instrumentalists in a transparent orchestral web. I think he is closer to Puccini’s sensuality than Richard Strauss’s overblown bombast, even though in the second act finale there are reminiscences of Der Rosenkavalier, which was premiered almost a year before Eva was first performed, on 24 November 1911 at Theater an der Wien. That was the same theatre that also saw the premiere of Die lustige Witwe, and the first Hanna Glawari and Danilo, Mizzi Günther and Louis Treumann, also sang the leading roles in the new operetta.
The libretto is a variant of the old Cinderella story, where the poor factory girl wins the prince, in this case the owner of the glass factory, situated near Brussels. A kind of social realism, one could think, but in the second act we are back in the normal upper class operetta world, in Octave Flaubert’s villa. The third and last act takes us, not for the first time in a Lehár operetta, to Paris. There are rather few arias, and those few are labelled Lied (song) to make them less pretentious, since they are often very short. Most of the musical numbers are duets, but there are no less than three melodramas that grow into songs or duets. The three finales are quite extended numbers, the one in act II is almost 14 minutes long, and here, just as in the melodrama numbers, Lehár works in freer, partly recitative style, more related to opera. It is also in these more ambitious numbers that his inventive scoring is at its most colourful (Wien 1950 mit Eva Seböck, Fred Liewehr u.a.; dazu Ausschnitte in Spanisch mit Alfredo Krauss, Madrid 1959; Fledermaus FM-1020).

 

Emilio Arrieta was one of Spain’s greatest zarzuela composers and especially Marina belongs to one of the most famous works. It’s a true pleasure to hear this. El Domino Azul, this first zarzuela of Arrieta is based on Le domino noir, the text of Scribe on which Auber composed his comical opera music.  The premiere was an enthusiast success and twelve of the fifteen numbers were repeated. The success vanished slowly and nowadays performances are rare (Madrid 2010/ José Maria Moreno).

At first Marina was originally interpreted as a zarzuela in two acts with a libretto by Camprodon, and had its premiere on September 21, 1855 in the Circus Theater Madrid for an audience that reacted with a complete disinterest. Nothing pointed to the later great success of the work. Ten shows followed in Madrid, which was very little in those days. In the aftermath of the consecutive performances in Spain the work became more popular. Sixteen years after its premiere tenor Enrico Tamberlick wanted to sing the work in Teatro Real and asked Arrieta to adjust the libretto. Arrieta trusted Ramos Carrión with the adaptions of the libretto. This time the opera achieved an undisputed success, and multiple fragments had to be repeated. Arrieta received one of the biggest ovations of his career. The transformation required the assemblage of new parts as well as removing some. Alfredo Kraus and Giacomo Aragall are the most famous performers of this zarzuela / opera. (Alfredo Kraus, Victoria Canale, Jaime Aragall u.a. Rafael Frübeck de Burgos/ Madrid 1987/ FM-1922)

 

bazin voyage opera-clubFrançois Bazin was an example of the kind of composer who was very popular and appreciated during his life, but unjustly got forgotten after his death. Léo Delibes would have had the same fate, if not for his opera Lakmé and some of his ballets, that still belong to the standard repertoire. Be surprised by the two one-act works L’omelette à la Follembuche and L’Ecossais de Châtou of a composer you wouldn’t expect it from. François Emmanuel Joseph Bazin (Marseille, 4 September 1816 – Paris, 2 July 1878) was a French composer. He was a student of Daniel Auber at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique in Paris, where he later would teach harmony. In 1840 he won the Prix de Rome for his cantata Loyse de Monfort. In spite of the fact that his operas were very popular in his time, they now are seldom being performed.
Le voyage en Chine, which premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris and Mâitre Pathelin are his best-known compositions, and continued to appear well into the 20th century.

Clément Philibert François Bazin (Saint-Germain-du-Val, 21 February 1836 – Paris, 16 January 1891) was a French composer of romantic music, mainly known for his ballet music. As opera composer he mainly became famous for his opera Lakmé. He’s hardly known as operetta composer. In 1856 he wrote the operetta Deux sous de charbon. This operetta was announced non-stop for 14 years on the posters of the Folies-Nouvelles. In a schedule of one a year he continued to compose operettas and vaudevilles for fifteen years.

Clément Philibert Léo Delibes (Saint-Germain-du-Val, 21 February 1836 – Paris, 16 January 1891) was a French composer of romantic music, mainly known for his ballet music. As opera composer he mainly became famous for his opera Lakmé. He’s hardly known as operetta composer. In 1856 he wrote the operetta Deux sous de charbon. This operetta was announced non-stop for 14 years on the posters of the Folies-Nouvelles. In a schedule of one a year he continued to compose operettas and vaudevilles for fifteen years. Delibes entered history as a master of the traditional French music, light and melodious. Or, as he said himself: « Pour ma part, je suis reconnaissant à Wagner des émotions très vives qu’il m’a fait ressentir, des enthousiasmes qu’il a soulevés en moi. Mais si, comme auditeur, j’ai voué au maître allemand une profonde admiration, je me refuse, comme producteur, à l’imiter. ». Meaning: “I truly owe Wagner for the vivid emotions he’s let me feel, the enthusiasm he’s raised within me. But in spite of the fact that I, as listener, dedicate my admiration to the German master, I refuse, as producer, to imitate him”. (ORTF 1968/ 1971 Marcel Cariven/ Jean Brébion mit Claudine Collart, Lina Dachary, Michel Sénechal u. a./ FM-1923).

 

The edition of The American Musical speaks for itself. Part 1 turned out to be a great success and herewith we’re offering you part 2.  We offer again an array of musical legends in recordings of some of their most famous theatrical numbers, usually cut contemporaneously with the musicals themselves (there were no real „cast albums“ as such in the 1930s). The mastering is excellent, overcoming generations of wear and neglect on some of these tracks (many of which haven’t seen the light of day in decades). (FM-1021)

The Golden Age of Operetta, Part 2: This is the second, and last, part of the series The Golden Age of Operetta. . Anna Moffo, Jeanette Scovotti, Mary Ellen Pracht, mezzo soprano: Rosalind Elias, tenors: William Lewis, Richard Fredricks and Robert Nagy make you enjoy less known operetta/musical fragments. Volume 2 of this famous anthology. Renowned and less known operettas/musicals (especially concerning the European market). Highlights are sung in English, with Anna Moffo as the center. Also with sopranos: Jeanette Scovotti, Mary Ellen Pracht, mezzo soprano: Rosalind Elias, tenors: William Lewis, Richard Fredricks and Robert Nagy, conducted by Lehman Engel.(FM-1024). opera-club