Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

La Bohème, Manitoba

Manitoba Opera’s first production in nine years of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème still stirs the heart and inspires tears with its tragic tale of bohemian artists living — and loving — in 1840s Paris.

Arizona Opera Presents Don Pasquale in Tucson

On April 12, 2014, Arizona Opera opened its series of performances of Donizetti's Don Pasquale in Tucson. Chuck Hudson’s production of this opera combined Commedia dell’arte with Hollywood movie history.

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

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):