VIENNA, MY CITY OF DREAMS • Niels Muus, cond; Akiko Nakajima (sop); Morphing Ch O • GRAMOLA 98908 (60:45)
J. STRAUSS II Gypsy Baron: Overture. Emperor Waltzes. On the Beautiful Blue Danube. SIECZYNSKI Vienna, My City of Dreams. LEHÁR Der Zarewitsch: Einer wirdRead more kommen. The Merry Widow: Vilja-Lied; Lippen schweigen (with Wolfgang Rauball, bar). STOLZ Der Favorit: Du sollst der Kaiser meiner Seele sein. SUPPÉ Boccaccio: Hab ich nur deine Liebe. JOS. STRAUSS Pizzicato Polka. JURMANN Seven Sweethearts: You and the Waltz
While these performances may not replace your all-time favorites in this repertoire, they are in fact very good, and the disc is delightful listening for anyone who enjoys this lighter Viennese repertoire.
The real reason for a recommendation is the Japanese soprano Akiko Nakajima, who has the right voice, and has the style down perfectly. The notes speak about an operetta tradition in Japan (and in fact one verse of Suppé’s aria from Boccaccio is sung in Japanese because it is such a favorite in that country), and she seems to have absorbed it. The style and to a slight degree the timbre remind one of Beverly Sills, although Nakajima does not try any of the coloratura displays that Sills could pull off. But her legato is smooth, her phrasing is apt, and the voice has a lovely glow to it.
I wish I could be as enthusiastic about Niels Muus and his Morphing Chamber Orchestra. The conducting seems to me to lack spark—to plod along without any special lift to the phrases, and with an orchestral sound that seems a bit on the dry side. I am trying not to overstate it; the orchestral work is more than adequate and doesn’t get in the way. But it certainly doesn’t have about it the special touches that so many great conductors brought to this kind of music.
On balance, though, if you like this kind of repertoire, I can recommend the disc. Nakajima’s singing brings sufficient rewards. The recorded sound favors the singer perhaps a bit unnaturally, but not unpleasantly. The accompanying notes are adequate but not more, and the texts are given only in the language in which the music is sung.