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Recordings

Adolphe Adam: Le Postillon de Longjumeau
27 Feb 2007

ADAM: Le Postillon de Longjumeau

Why should anyone buy a German language broadcast of a delicious French opéra-comique?

Adolphe Adam: Le Postillon de Longjumeau

Robert Swensen (Chapelou), Pamela Coburn (Madeleine), Peter Lika (Bijou), Florian Prey (Marquis de Corcy), Jürgen Linn (Bourdon). Rundfunkorchester des SWF Kaiserslautern conducted by Klaus Arp. Recorded 1th of October 1992.

Capriccio 51 180 [2CDs]

$9.99  Click to buy

How is it even possible that in the nineties this charming masterpiece was still performed in German in stead of the original language? For a simple and worthy reason. Decades after its disappearance in France, the opera still had a respectable career in the German-speaking countries where it was considered as another successful Spieloper — a good competitor in the public’s favour of the operas of Lortzing, Nicolai or Flotow. The great recordings of the opera’s hit ‘Mes amis, écoutez l’histoire’ were made in German by Joseph Schmidt, Helge Rosvaenge and Josef Traxel. In 1962 Sender Freies Berlin produced a fine TV-version with John van Kesteren and Stina-Britta Melander. Finally, 20 years ago, a complete French recording appeared with June Anderson and John Aler. Therefore, does this EMI-recording make the radio broadcast redundant as it is sung in the original version, has a lot of dialogue lacking in the radio broadcast and most important of it all, is complete. In the radio recording under review there are some traditional cuts in the second act — all in all some 12 minutes of music mostly for the tenor. These are weighty arguments against this German version.

On the other hand, Le Postillon de Longjumeau survived due to the chances it offers to singers with ringing delivery and charm; and it is here this version has the upper hand. Tenor Robert Swensen has it all — good high notes, vocal heft, a sense of style — while EMI’s John Aler with his light-weight voice and his white timbre is no match for him or the role. Pamela Coburn has probably half the voice of June Anderson, is less agile in her coloratura and still sounds more convincing. She had a long career in German theatres and her German delivery is more believable than Anderson’s French one. Moreover, she performed in operettas by Lehar and Strauss, which are nearer to Adam than Anderson’s Normas or Elviras. There is a lightness of touch with Coburn that is lacking in Anderson’s far more Italian delivery style. And as Le Postillon de Longjumeau is almost one long sequence of tenor and soprano arias and duets, the vocal results might outweigh other considerations. The smaller part singers are fine too, though indeed Jean-Philippe Lafont on EMI is superior over Capriccio’s Peter Lika (who doesn’t disappoint however). The German Radio Orchestra plays well and is conducted with ‘Schwung’ by Klaus Arp. In this kind of music radio orchestras, due to their versatility and their outings in the lighter repertoire are often to be preferred over their all too serious and better known symphonic competitors. So the choice is up to the individual collector’s preference; but this is a version not to be dismissed.

Jan Neckers

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