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Offenbach: Orpheus in der Unterwelt / Mattes, Rothenberger

Release Date: 08/31/2012 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 5653842   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Jacques Offenbach
Performer:  Anneliese RothenbergerKari LövaasFerry GruberGisela Litz,   ... 
Conductor:  Willy Mattes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia HungaricaCologne Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This recording, first released in Germany in 1978, differs from the only other currently available 'complete' recording of the operetta—that under Michel Plasson (EMI CD CDS7 49647, 1/89)—not only by being in German but by eschewing completely the additions Offenbach made to the score in 1874. It opens with the familiar overture, put together for Vienna in 1860 by Carl Binder (whose amplified scoring I assume is also used), and then pretty faithfully follows the original 1858 version in four scenes. The spoken text is abridged and updated, but I think unexceptionably so. The characters have an anachronistic, but endearing, tendency to break into brief quotations from late nineteenth-century and twentiethcentury Viennese operettas. John Read more Styx's song, delivered by a non-singing comic, includes a verse about the can-can and Offenbach.

I am not one who believes that the French somehow have a monopoly when it comes to Offenbach style. Rather, I believe it is a matter of having the feel of the music—whatever the performers' nationality. Yet the sheer gaiety and sparkle that one most readily associates with the composer frequently seem to elude the Germans. So it is here, with numbers such as Diana's couplets in scene 2 and the fly duet in scene 3 delivered in a decidedly careworn fashion.

On the other hand the recording has high musical standards and, in its way, a good deal of winning charm and lighthearted relish. Adolf Dallapozza and Anneliese Rothenberger set the standards with their Act I concerto duet, and Benno Kusche, as Jupiter, predictably adds life to scenes 2 and 3. There are surprising elements in the casting that I assume owe something to German traditions in the work. Kari Lövaas, for instance, seems a light-weight Venus, though she sings most engagingly. By contrast, Ferry Gruber, a buffo, seems to find the part of Aristeus/Pluto a shade high for his voice.

The virtues, then, are essentially German ones, and the recording will presumably only be considered by anyone interested in such. As a representation of Offenbach's Parisian style, it obviously cannot hold a candle to the Plasson version. The recorded sound is admirably clear and spacious.

-- Gramophone [7/1989]

This set does not include a libretto.
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Works on This Recording

Orphée aux enfers by Jacques Offenbach
Performer:  Anneliese Rothenberger (Soprano), Kari Lövaas (Soprano), Ferry Gruber (Tenor),
Gisela Litz (Mezzo Soprano), Brigitte Lindner (Soprano), Adolf Dallapozza (Tenor)
Conductor:  Willy Mattes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Hungarica,  Cologne Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1858/1874; Paris, France 
Language: German 

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