Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Stéphanie D’Oustrac: Sirènes

After D’Oustrac’s striking success as Cassandre in Berlioz Les Troyens, this will reach audiences less familiar with her core repertoire in the baroque and grand opéra. Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and La mort d’Ophélie, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and the Lieder of Franz Liszt are very well known, but the finesse of D’Oustrac’s timbre lends a lucid gloss which makes them feel fresh and pure.

Luminous Mahler Symphony no.3: François-Xavier Roth, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.3 with François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, now at last on CD, released by Harmonia Mundi, after the highly acclaimed live performance streamed a few months ago.

A First-Ever Recording: Benjamin Godard’s 1890 Opera on Dante and Beatrice

The composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is today largely unknown to most music lovers. Specialist collectors, though, have been enjoying his songs (described as “imaginative and delightful” by Robert Moore in American Record Guide), his Concerto Romantique for violin (either in its entirety or just the dancelike Canzonetta, which David Oistrakh recorded winningly decades ago), and some substantial chamber and orchestral works that have received first recordings in recent years.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

Le Bal des Animaux : Works by Chabrier, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie et al.

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.

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):