Notes and Editorial Reviews
Der Fidele Bauer
Vinzenz Praxmarer, cond; Franz Suhrada (
); Laura Scherwitzl (
); Eugene Amesmann (
); Romana Noack (
); Rupert Bergmann (
); Robert Maszl (
); Thomas Zisterer (
); Franz Lehár O; Lehár Fest Ch
CPO 777 591-2 (2 CDs: 110:05) Live: Bad Ischl 8/2010
Thanks to the folks putting on the summer Lehár Festival in Bad Ischl, we now have another perhaps unjustly forgotten operetta, Leo Fall’s
Der fidele Bauer
(The Merry Peasant), available on the German cpo label. Recorded live in August 2010,
Der fidele Bauer
was composer Fall’s first major hit when it premiered in Mannheim in 1907 to much critical acclaim. Fall was an Austrian contemporary of Franz Lehár and a prolific operetta contributor in Vienna and Berlin during the early years of the 20th century. Today, even his most popular operettas, such as
The Dollar Princess
The Rose of Stambul,
are all but forgotten.
The story is typical operetta fare, pitting the simple folk of the countryside against the more sophisticated city dwellers, in this case of Vienna itself. Stefan, son of the merry peasant of the title, is sent off by his father (Mathaeus) and wealthy godfather (Lindoberer) to study in the city and make something more of himself than he could back home. When Stefan returns to the village several years later during a festive church holiday there is much rejoicing, but it is soon evident the young man is uncomfortable in his former surroundings. He informs his father and sister (Annamirl) that he cannot stay but must press on to Berlin to arrange for his upcoming nuptials. What Stefan also intimates is that the family is not really welcome at the wedding festivities, and the message becomes clear that he is ashamed of them, their humble origins, and their peasant ways.
Act II takes place at Stefan’s residence in Vienna on the occasion of the young professor’s first lecture at the university, where we meet his new wife (Frederike) and her family. Quickly a confrontation ensues with Stefan’s relatives from the village, feelings get hurt, love blossoms, Stefan righteously stands up for his peasant father, and everything is tearfully but happily sorted out in the finale to the strains of a rousing peasant chorus.
Even though the cast at Bad Ischl sings quite well I am a bit disappointed in the music itself. Of course Viennese operetta caters to Germanic tastes; there is oompah march music, plenty of simple folk tunes, lots of male chorus, and lots of ensembles, but I don’t really feel the level of musical inspiration measures up to other works by Lehár, Emmerch Kálmán, or even Johann Strauss Jr. Perhaps that is why even in its time of greatest popularity this operetta did not travel widely outside of German-speaking countries. There is a quite nice
for the wife, Frederike, and a quite well-known one for Stefan in act II, “O frag mich nicht,” once recorded by Fritz Wunderlich. The Festival Overture, written by Fall as a prologue to the operetta at its Mannheim premiere, is also quite entertaining with motifs from Offenbach, Strauss Jr., Sullivan, Millöcker, and possibly one or two others interspersed in a lively and enjoyable mix.
The two young tenors, Eugene Amesmann and Robert Maszl, and two young sopranos, Laura Scherwitzl and Romana Noack, making up the romantic couples all acquit themselves very well; the two older men, Franz Suhrada singing the role of the father and Rupert Bergmann as the godfather, tend to bark and shout a bit but are more than adequate in these semi-comedic roles. The Franz Lehár Orchestra is a bit scrappy but plays the music with plenty of Austrian élan. Cpo does not provide a libretto for this obscure work nor a synopsis linked to the tracking list, so non-German speakers are left to wonder a bit at what exactly they are hearing. A booklet essay, synopsis, and short bios are provided in German, English, and French. Not one of cpo’s very best in its operetta series, but this work will probably never get another recording. Snap it up if you are interested.
FANFARE: Bill White
Works on This Recording
Der Fidele Bauer by Leo Fall
Thomas Zisterer (Baritone),
Robert Maszl (Tenor),
Laura Scherwitzl (Soprano),
Rupert Bergmann (Bass-baritone),
Franz Suhrada (Tenor),
Eugene Amesmann (Bass)
Franz Lehár Orchestra,
Lehár Festival Chorus
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