Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

Tristan, English National Opera

My first Tristan, indeed my first Wagner, in the theatre was ENO’s previous staging of the work, twenty years ago, in 1996. The experience, as it should, as it must, although this is alas far from a given, quite overwhelmed me.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England aged 12.

Opera Las Vegas: A Blazing Carmen in the Desert

Headed by General Director Luana DeVol, a world-renowned dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas is a relatively new company that presents opera with first-rate casts at the University of Las Vegas’s Judy Bayley Theater. In 2014 they presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and in 2015, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year they offered a blazing rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

La bohème, Opera Holland Park

Ever since a friend was reported as having said he would like something in return for modern-dress Shakespeare (how quaint that term seems now, as if anyone would bat an eyelid!), namely an Elizabethan-dress staging of Look Back in Anger, I have been curious about the possibilities of ‘down-dating’, as I suppose we might call it. Rarely, if ever, do we see it, though.

Holland Festival: Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, Amsterdam

Leading a very muscular Dutch Radio Philharmonic, Principal Conductor Markus Stenz brilliantly delivered Alban Berg’s Wozzeck with a superb Florian Boesch in the lead and a mesmerising Asmik Grigorian as Marie his wife.

Lalo: Complete Songs

Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.

Pietro Mascagni: Iris

There can’t be that many operas that start with an extended solo for double bass. At Holland Park, the eerie, angular melody for lone bass player which opens Pietro Mascagni’s Iris immediately unsettled the relaxed mood of the summer evening.

L’italiana in Algeri, Garsington Opera

George Souglides’ set for Will Tuckett’s new production of Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri at Garsington would surely have delighted Liberace.

Carmen in San Francisco

Calixto Bieito is always news, Carmen with a good cast is always news. So here is the news.

Eugene Onegin, Garsington Opera

Distinguished theatre director Michael Boyd’s first operatic outing was his brilliant re-invention of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo for the Royal Opera at the Roundhouse in 2015, so what he did next was always going to rouse interest.

Bohuslav Martinů’s Ariane and Alexandre bis

Although Bohuslav Martinů’s short operas Ariane and Alexandre bis date from 1958 and 1937 respectively, there was a distinct tint of 1920s Parisian surrealism about director Rodula Gaitanou’s double bill, as presented by the postgraduate students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Lohengrin, Dresden

The eyes of the opera world turned recently to Dresden—the city where Wagner premiered his Rienzi, Fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser—for an important performance of Lohengrin. For once in Germany it was not about the staging.

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):