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13 Feb 2009
Fritz Wunderlich — The Legend
Some opera aficionados who take a look at the contents of this two-CD Fritz Wunderlich collection from Profil might shake their heads in bemused wonder: the German lyric tenor as Turridu, let alone Pinkerton and Rodolfo?
And if those fans don’t care for operetta, the second disc won’t persuade them to take a chance.
But they should. Profil provides scanty documentation, but the performances apparently derive from 1954-56. Wunderlich, in other words, sings in the freshest voice possible, but with the taste and elegance of his prime. And why not a tasteful, elegant Turridu sung in German (as are the Puccini selections)? Wunderlich traces a beautiful melodic line in the opening serenade, and when it comes to Turridu’s ode to wine (here called a “trinklied”), the tenor pours out that joyful richness heard in his famous versions of “Granada.” Unfortunately, that already brief number suffers a brutal cut, as does Turridu’s farewell to his mother. The duet with Santuzza whips and stings, but as Turridu’s mama has some lines, Profil should have identified the roles taken by the credited Marlies Siemeling and Ingeborg Wenglor. Theo Zilken takes Sharpless to Wunderlich’s Pinkerton, a portrayal that even en Deutsch rivals Pavarotti’s for tonal beauty with the appropriate hint of Yankee arrogance. It’s less of a surprise that Boheme’s Rodolfo fits Wunderlich like a glove, and again he has a good partner in the Marcello of Herbert Brauer, although Trude Eipperle’s Mimi can sound strained. Disc one ends with four selections from Mozart’s early Zaide, two with Maria Stader, and here Wunderlich reaffirms that he is without peer as a Mozart tenor.
Amusingly, Profil identifies the first two tracks of the 17 on disc two as being more Mascagni from Cavalleria Rusticana. “Komm in die Gondel” and “Treu sein, das liegt mir nicht” actually come from Johann Strauss II’s Eine Nacht in Venedig. The conventions of German operetta mean that for some ears, such as your reviewer’s, almost an hour of tenor numbers risks boredom, but such is Wunderlich’s grace and control that tedium never manifests itself. Surely Die Fledermaus has never heard a more attractively sung Alfred.
As mentioned above, Profil does itself and consumers no favors with the packaging. The only track listing, in painfully small font, appears on the back of the jewel box. The slim booklet merely provides only a generic biography, in German and English (of a sort).
Snap this up, Wunderlich fans who do not have the selections, and any other lovers of truly great tenor singing.