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30 Aug 2009
Lehär: Die Blaue Mazur
As the detail-filled booklet essay to this CPO set reminds its readers, Franz Lehär's operettas enjoyed widespread, though rarely lasting, success, with the music theater world of the time eager for each successive work.
Of course, part of the interest lay in anticipating a work that might match the magic of The Merry Widow (1905). Premiering in 1920, Die Blaue Mazur had a nice run but has slipped into obscurity, where most of Lehär’s works keep it company. The booklet’s essay writer, Stefan Frey (as translated into English by Susan Marie Praeder), posits that the score featured a “new way of harmony and ultimate color appeal” that Lehär found in the music of Franz Schreker and Korngold. The orchestration has its moments, but as heard on this recording, Die Blaue Mazur sounds very much as one would expect any Lehär work to sound. Even by 1920, it must have felt dated.
Even Frey doesn’t attempt to describe the plot as anything but formulaic. It does begin with a marriage, where other stories might end. Undoing an inevitable misunderstanding between the newlywed Julian and Blanka, instigated partly by Julian’s former love Gretl, occupies the tired complications that ensue before the happy ending. As Julian, Johan Weigel’s pliant, lyrical tenor suits Lehär’s music well, but his character lacks one breakout number (the entire operetta does, actually). Johanna Stojkovich’s Blanka gets a wider range of emotions, and she puts them across attractively. A few unpleasant squawks do come from Jan Kobow in a minor tenor role. Otherwise, conductor Frank Beermann and the Singakademie Frankfurt musicians provide the most enjoyable work here. All three acts ends with finales where Lehär seems to be trying out any number of tunes. He never does find one great one, but a couple of them are attractive enough.
CPO provides no libretto. A comprehensive synopsis does feature tracks numbers that help the listener follow the action. Lovers of super-sweet Viennese trifles may find some pleasure in the set.