Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

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.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Songs for Nancy: Bampton Classical Opera celebrate legendary soprano, Nancy Storace

Bampton Classical Opera’s 25th anniversary season opens with a concert on 7th March at St John’s Smith Square to celebrate the legendary soprano Nancy Storace.

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 newly discovered song by Alma Mahler

It is well known that in addition to the fourteen songs by Alma Mahler published in her lifetime, several dozen more - perhaps as many as one hundred - were written and have been lost or destroyed.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.



Franz Lehar: Das Land des Lächelns
07 May 2009

Franz Lehár: Das Land des Lächelns

Doris Sennefelder's booklet essay for this CPO recording of Lehar's Das Land des Lächelns details how close the composer was to Puccini.

Franz Lehár: Das Land des Lächelns

Camilla Nylund, Julia Bauer, Piotr Beczala, Alexander Kaimbacher, Alfred Berg, Theodor Weimer. Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Münchner Rundfunkorchester Ulf Schirmer, conducting.

CPO 777 303-2 [2CDs]

$29.99  Click to buy

Both men were working on Chinese-themed works in the mid 1020s, and though Puccini did not live to complete Turandot, it premiered in 1926, with Lehar in attendance. Apparently Lehar then went back to an incomplete work, had the libretto revised, and by 1929, Das Land des Lächelns had its premiere. While in form an operetta, Lehar’s Lächelns asks for some strong voices, especially for the lead soprano, who must take the “Calaf”-role of falling in love with Chinese royalty, in this case, a prince named Sou-Chongs. Whereas Turandot gets a rare operatic happy ending, Lehar opted for a La Rondine-type finale, with Sou-Chongs and his German love, Lisa, realizing that their cultures are too different for their relationship to succeed.

Lehar’s score is dominated by its hit tune, “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz,” but some parts reveal his aspiration to more serious music. When the scene shifts to China in the second act, a ballet sequence combines both Lehar’s Austrian tunefullness and some more exotic orchestration. As the drama deepens, one motif foreshadowing the sad ending bears a strong resemblance to the “Keikobad” theme from Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten. Lehar certainly gave the role of Lisa operatic challenges. Camilla Nylund has a large enough voice to meet those challenges, but as recorded here, she tends to be shrill at the top. In a smaller soprano role of Sou-Chongs’s sister, Julia Bauer makes a more pleasant impression.

Piotr Beczala has made himself one of the world’s most in-demand tenors, and the beauty of his tone and intelligence of his delivery in the role of the prince come across in this recording. This is music that has attracted the world’s great tenors, and if Beczala doesn’t have the vocal charisma of a Tauber or Di Stefano, he stands in no one’s shadow.

Ulf Schirmer elicits a performance from the Müncher Rundfunkorchester that respects Lehar’s more serious intentions. The playing has color and elegance, presented in a warm and natural audio setting.

As relentlessly as opera companies flog The Merry Widow, a listen to this recording will make many wonder why Das Land des Lächelns doesn’t appear more often on opera stages, to the extent that it makes any appearances at all, in the US at least. For Beczala and the appealing score, this set deserves listeners. CPO provides a detailed summary with track references, but no text.

Chris Mullins

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):