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Recordings

21 Feb 2005

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Sings Operettas by Lehár, Suppé, and Strauss

This new disc, from Hänssler’s “Living Voices” series, divides essentially into two parts. The first four tracks are “Potpourris” from Léhar’s Paganini and Das Land des Lächelns, Suppé’s Bocaccio, and Johann Strauss’s Wiener Blut. Recorded in 1939 and 1940, these “Potpourris” feature tenor Rupert Glawitsch and a very young Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (b. 1915). The remaining eight tracks include excerpts from Schwarzkopf’s early-50s EMI complete mono recordings of Die Lustige Witwe and Land das Lächelns.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Sings Operettas by Lehár, Suppé, and Strauss
Music from Paganini, Boccaccio, Wiener Blut, Das Land des Lächelns, and Die Lustige Witwe.
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano, Rupert Glawitsch, Nicolai Gedda, tenors, Erich Kunz, baritone.
Various orchestras and conductors.
Hännsler Classic CD 94.501. TT: 68:44

This new disc, from Hänssler's "Living Voices" series, divides essentially into two parts. The first four tracks are "Potpourris" from Léhar's Paganini and Das Land des Lächelns, Suppé's Bocaccio, and Johann Strauss's Wiener Blut. Recorded in 1939 and 1940, these "Potpourris" feature tenor Rupert Glawitsch and a very young Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (b. 1915). The remaining eight tracks include excerpts from Schwarzkopf's early-50s EMI complete mono recordings of Die Lustige Witwe and Land das Lächelns.

The "Potpourris," which occupied two sides of a 78-rpm disc, were obviously designed to showcase Glawitsch, as he is given the lion's share of the music. Schwarzkopf's relatively limited participation is light years away from the mature artist featured in the EMI excerpts. In the former, we hear a small-voiced lyric soprano, with a tremulous lower register, who sings rather tentatively and with minimal personality. The EMI operettas, on the other hand, are the work of a finished artist, brimming with involvement and personality.

Of course, Schwarzkopf's interpretations have long divided opera listeners. I'm certainly not going to be the person who's going to change anyone's mind in this regard. I will say that unless you are intent on acquiring everything Schwarzkopf recorded, I can't see much reason to purchase this Hänssler release. Glawitsch's singing, while more accomplished than that of his young partner, certainly doesn't come close to eclipsing the stylish and opulently work of such tenors as Tauber, Wittrisch, Wundlerich, and Gedda. And, for not much more than the cost of this disc, you can own the complete EMI recordings of The Merry Widow and The Land of Smiles, reissued on a budget EMI two-disc set.

Kenneth Meltzer

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