Notes and Editorial Reviews
Uwe Theimer, cond; Mirko Roschkowski (
); Cornelia Zink (
); Henryk Böhm (
); Erwin Belakowitsch (
); Adriane Queiroz (
); Linda Plech (
); Mörbisch Festival O
OEHMS 432 (2 CDs: 77:03)
It has been 10 years plus since
last visited the Mörbisch Festival in depth, with interviews and reviews of the previous 10 years of operetta productions by Christopher Williams in issue 29:4. Since then, the Festival in the scenic locale on the shores of the Neusiedlersee has changed directors and replaced noted conductor Rudolf Bibl, who led the Festival orchestra with great distinction for many years. New director Dagmar Schellenberger faces the daunting task of living up to the legacy of previous director Harald Serafin, and attracting nearly 300,000 tourists and Austrians to the outdoor stage every summer for the one and only seasonal production.
In the interim the Oehms label has made some changes as well. Once issuing CD releases of each production like clockwork (in ample time to be sold to Festival attendees) the small, quality label opted not to record the Festival’s
My Fair Lady
in 2009, and refrained from new issues of reprises of
The Gypsy Baron
in 2011 and
(The Bat) in 2012 which they had recorded previously. I can understand not wanting to go up against Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews in the Lerner and Loewe classic, and it is certainly cheaper for Oehms to hawk copies of the older productions of the two Viennese standards (which also have seen plenty of other fine recordings).
(The Beggar Student), heard here from the 2013 season, is also a reprise for the Festival from a production in1995, but never before recorded by Oehms. It is an operetta from Vienna’s golden age, full of tuneful songs, memorable ensembles, and catchy choruses. It represents the career high point of Viennese composer Carl Millöcker, a protégé of Franz von Suppé and rival of Johann Strauss II in operetta-loving Vienna during the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The story is typical operetta fluff. Pompous Saxon Col. Ollendorf takes liberties with the high-born but impoverished Polish Countess Laura, whom he desires, by kissing her on the shoulder. She promptly whacks him with her fan, and a song ensues. Stung by his humiliation, the Colonel hatches a plan to use two young students, imprisoned for political reasons, to impersonate rich nobles and woo the Countess Laura and her sister Bronislava and humiliate their proud mother, the Countess Palmatica. In brief, the plan succeeds, the weddings take place, Ollendorf gloatingly reveals the deception, only to have the tables turned as the Poles rise up to oust their Saxon oppressors. It turns out that one of the beggar students was a noble all along, the other is made a noble by the incoming king, mom is well satisfied with her new family, and all live happily ever after with a big choral finale.
As is its practice, Oehms cuts all the dialogue, so not much of the story is actually given here. They also make cuts in the music, none really damaging, to fit everything onto one disc. The recordings are made under studio conditions in a local hall well prior to the actual performances. Cast, chorus, and orchestra are carefully vetted by the Festival staff and most probably include many returnees from previous productions. It all makes for quality recordings, and this one is no exception—a disc of only the musical numbers, to be sure, but one that can stand comparison with the best recordings available. The cast here is particularly strong, the two soprano sisters of Cornelia Zink as Laura and Adriane Queiroz as Bronislava standing out, along with the two tenor suitors, Mirko Roschkowski as Symon and Erwin Belakowitsch as Jan. Zink possesses a soubrette-type voice typical of many famous operetta sopranos with a wonderful high range which she demonstrates freely. Her colleague Queiroz, a more typical-sounding soprano, is also excellent and provides some vocal differentiation on the audio disc. The two light tenors both sing sweetly in Germanic operetta fashion, the voice of Roschkowski just a bit more seductive and appealing. Here, the Colonel Ollendorf of Henryk Böhm also sings well, but lacks the heft and depth of tone to seem very menacing or to really differentiate his voice from the tenors in the ensembles. The mezzo Countess mom sung by Linda Plech is only average, sounding a bit muffled and with an incipient wobble. Short bios in the booklet take us further into the large cast than we really need to go, and also provide details on Vienna conductor Uwe Theimer, ably replacing Bibl in the pit.
is a fairly well-known work, especially in German speaking locales, and is well represented on both audio and video disc, although many recordings are out of print and now hard to find. For comparison purposes the 1967/1973 studio recording on EMI with Rita Streich, Nicolai Gedda, and Hermann Prey is the bell-weather here. EMI provides much of the dialogue cut by Oehms, although at times it sounds rather stilted in the antiseptic studio atmosphere. Streich and Gedda (and the secondary pair of lovers as well) put more life and color in the singing than their young Mörbisch rivals, and Prey brings a deeper baritone to pompous Ollendorf. It is my belief that operettas are made to be seen, so get a video if possible; the Mörbisch Festival has two pretty good ones available. If you want an audio recording, this Oehms release is excellent, one of the best of the series, but it cannot replace the classic EMI set.
FANFARE: Bill White
Works on This Recording
Der Bettelstudent by Karl Millöcker
Adriane Queiroz (Soprano),
Linda Plech (Soprano),
Mirko Roschkowski (Tenor),
Erwin Belakowitsch (Baritone),
Cornelia Zink (Soprano),
Rupert Bergmann (Bass Baritone),
Henryk Böhm (Baritone),
Steven Scheschareg (Baritone)
Mörbisch Festival Choir,
Mörbisch Festival Orchestra
Written: 1882; Vienna, Austria
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