Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

10 Mar 2005

KÁLMÁN: Die Csárdásfürstin

Emmerich Kálmán’s name may be familiar primarily to music lovers d’un certain âge, but between the world wars his operettas were as popular as those of Léhar and Strauss on both sides of the Atlantic. Die Csárdásfürstin (The Gypsy [or Czardas] Princess), which premiered in Vienna in 1915, is his best known, and for good reason. Its book by Leo Stein and Béla Jenbach sparkles and delights, but with reversals of fortune that leave the audience wondering until the last minute how love’s complications will be resolved. The Budapest-born Kálmán (1882–1953; his fellow composition students included Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály) apparently was weaned on his homeland’s melodies and czardas, which he mixes generously with Austrian waltzes to create a glorious portrait of the twilight years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The piece played the New Amsterdam Theater in New York in 1917 as The Riviera Girl, with a new book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse and added numbers by Jerome Kern.

Emmerich Kálmán: Die Csárdásfürstin
Yvonne Kenny (Sylva), Michael Roider (Edwin), Mojca Erdmann (Countess Stasi), Marko Kathol (Count Boni), Karl-Michael Ebner (Feri/Notary), Hellmuth Klumpp (General Rohnsdorff), Heinz Holecek (Prince), Yvonne Kálmán (Princess)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and Slovak Philharmonic Chorus, Richard Bonynge (cond.)
Naxos 8.660105-06 [2CDs]

Emmerich Kálmán's name may be familiar primarily to music lovers d'un certain âge, but between the world wars his operettas were as popular as those of Léhar and Strauss on both sides of the Atlantic. Die Csárdásfürstin (The Gypsy [or Czardas] Princess), which premiered in Vienna in 1915, is his best known, and for good reason. Its book by Leo Stein and Béla Jenbach sparkles and delights, but with reversals of fortune that leave the audience wondering until the last minute how love's complications will be resolved. The Budapest-born Kálmán (1882-1953; his fellow composition students included Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály) apparently was weaned on his homeland's melodies and czardas, which he mixes generously with Austrian waltzes to create a glorious portrait of the twilight years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The piece played the New Amsterdam Theater in New York in 1917 as The Riviera Girl, with a new book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse and added numbers by Jerome Kern.

The story is almost a cliché, but the librettists transform it into a tightly constructed plot that Hofmannsthal might have envied (and probably did, but would never admit it). Prince Edwin loves Sylva, a young cabaret singer. Of course, as in such stories, his family disapproves and wants him to marry a countess. Sylva is about to embark on an American tour with her manager, Boni. (She's a very successful young cabaret singer!) Edwin signs a document promising to marry Sylva in eight weeks. In those eight weeks he will almost marry the countess, Sylva and Boni try to trick him with a sham marriage, Sylva tears up the document and releases him from his promise, and all is finally resolved by means of -- heredity.

Heredity was popular with the Nazis, of course. The Jewish Kálmán was offered honorary Aryan citizenship, but he had the good sense to move first to Paris, then to America; he returned to Europe after the Second World War. The Nazis in the beginning years of their regime showed flexibility on what constituted "degenerate art" if it suited their purposes. A film version of Die Csárdásfürstin was a smash hit when it was released in 1934 by UFA, Germany's MGM. Nazi motion pictures chief Joseph Goebbels, who envisioned himself as Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg rolled into one, was known for his own affairs with actresses, one of which required Hitler's intervention when Goebbels's wife threatened to divorce him and the actress's irate husband reportedly roughed up the Propaganda Minister (a news item that didn't make it into the Völkischer Beobachter). But after the film's release, performances of Kálmán's works were banned.

At the work's premiere in 1915, some critics clamored that it was unpatriotic (probably Kálmán's being Jewish would make anything he wrote unpatriotic in their eyes), since it depicted a prince of the blood romancing an actress. Let's review the Hapsburg family's support of the arts for a moment. Even Emperor Franz Josef himself had something of a reputation for waiting around for the girls upstairs. The actress Katharina Schratt, "the illegitimate Empress of Austria" as pianist and wag Moriz Rosenthal called her, had been appointed Vorleserin (Reader) to Franz Josef and his wife so that the appearance of the Emperor's mistress at Schönbrunn or his summer villa at Bad Ischl would be "proper." Among the Emperor's three grandsons, the third, Otto, father of the final Emperor, Karl I, was notorious for being a stage-door Johnny. So, although being realistic is often at odds with being patriotic, Die Csárdásfürstin was definitely realistic in its reflection of social life at the center of the Empire.

Die Csárdásfürstin has seen two previous complete recordings: a heavyweight recording with Anna Moffo and René Kollo, conducted by Bert Grund, on Eurodisc, and one with Erika Köth and Benno Kusche, conducted by Franz Marszalek, on Acanta. Lotte Rysanek and Rudolf Christ recorded a generous selection of excerpts on MasterTone, and Thomas Hampson and Placido Domingo have recorded arias. The Moffo-Kollo recording includes much more dialogue than the new one, but that recording has a 101 Strings sound (and instruments prominently featured that I didn't hear on the new recording) that some listeners may not care for. The Rysanek recording is distinguished by Herbert Prikopa, who plays Boni as a Hungarian Maurice Chevalier.

Unless listeners are looking for most of the spoken dialogue on a recording, this new release is the one to buy. Tenor Michael Roider's voice isn't terribly attractive, but Yvonne Kenny brings a velvety warmness to Sylva, and Marko Kathol and Mojca Erdmann as Sylva's manager and the countess (think Max and the Baroness in The Sound of Music; one wonders if Lindsay and Crouse modeled them on these characters) mold the comic relief and soubrette roles into well-rounded characters. Most notable, however, is conductor Richard Bonynge, who brings such amazing familiarity with this style to Kálmán's Hungarian rhythms and melodies that the listener feels like throwing another handful of paprika in the Gulaschsuppe and shouting éljen!

In addition to Die Csárdásfürstin, the second disc holds selections from other Kálmán operettas: Der Zigeunerprimás (The Gypsy Violinist, which the composer considered his finest score), Die Faschingsfee (The Fasching [Carnaval] Fairy), Das Hollandweibchen (The Little Dutch Wife), and Der Teufelsreiter (The Devil's Rider).

The accompanying booklet includes a detailed synopsis of the operetta along with informative short descriptions of the other works. Both German and English librettos with track numbers are found on the Naxos web site, a commendable practice. This formerly popular mélange, with its well-written and still quite humorous book topped off by a frothy Schlag of waltz and czardas melodies, deserves a look by university opera theaters and smaller companies.

David Anderson

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):