Notes and Editorial Reviews
LEHÁR Der Graf von Luxemburg • Walter Goldschmidt, cond; Lilian Sukis (Angèle Didier); Eberhard Wächter (Count René); Helga Papouschek (Juliette Vermont); Peter Fröhlich (Armand Brissard); Jane Tilden (Countess Stasa Kokozov); Erich Kunz
(Count Basil Basilovich); Kurt Sowinetz (Pélégrin); Kurt Graunke SO, Ch • ARTHAUS 101 626 (DVD: 95:00)
LEHÁR Zigeunerliebe • Heinz Wallberg, cond; Janet Perry (Zorika); Ion Buzea (Józsi); Adolf Dallapozza (Jonel Bolescu); Colette Lorand (Ilona); Heinz Friedrich (Peter Dragotin); Kurt Großkurth (Mihály / Moschu); Bavarian R Ch; Munich RO • ARTHAUS 101 599 (DVD: 88:00)
At long last, more of Lehár’s operettas are making it to DVD, and high time, too. Arthaus has just released three vintage film versions of his operettas, of which I review two here (the third, Paganini, was not received by me). Otherwise, the only other Lehár operettas to see the light of day on DVD so far have been Giuditta, Das Land des Lächelns, Der Zarewitsch (two versions), Die Lustige Witwe (three versions, one in English), and two other versions of Der Graf von Luxemburg.
Those two versions of Der Graf von Luxemburg were reviewed together by Christopher Williams in Fanfare 31:2—a Viennese production issued by CPO (that label’s first DVD release) with the headliner cast of Julianne Base, Bo Skovus, Gabriela Bone, and Rainer Trost, under the baton of Alfred Eschwé, and a Videoland release of a Mörbisch Festival production under Rudolf Bibl with a lesser-known cast of singers. Williams had good things to say about both, but tilted in favor of the CPO production as being more strongly cast and well integrated, placing it on his 2007 Want List. Both productions do a certain amount of updating of the setting and corresponding adaptation of the dialog, something that is standard with almost any opera production, but in Williams’s view neither does any violence to the story in the manner of current Regietheater. Both are considerably more complete than the Arthaus version, running 135 minutes (CPO) and 146 minutes (Videoland) instead of 95 minutes. In the same issue, Williams also reviewed a CD release on Oehms of the Mörbisch production (with a slightly different cast) and a CPO set of Zigeunerliebe; Williams’s review of the latter was favorable with some secondary reservations, while David L. Kirk placed it on his 2007 Want List.
In contrast to the aforementioned DVDs of Der Graf von Luxemburg, this version is a studio film, dating from 1972. It is thoroughly traditional in setting, and reduces the dialog considerably, which some may consider an advantage even with foreign-language subtitles. Since Williams provided a detailed plot summary in his review of the Oehms CD set, I will refer readers there. As a studio film version, this production can do all sorts of things that a stage version cannot, such as present large crowd scenes in outdoor settings, and film director Wolfgang Glück takes full advantage of his opportunities to present a lavish and beautiful production. Presumably the soundtrack is recorded separately and the acting lip-synched, but if so, that is exceptionally well done. With one exception, all the singing is quite good; Lilian Sukis is a radiant Angèle Didier; Helga Papouschek and Peter Fröhlich make a fine pair of young lovers in the supporting roles; and it does the heart good to have that master of operatic buffo roles, Erich Kunz, taking on the role of Count Boris and doing it to a turn, even if his voice is past its prime. The Countess Kokozov—here, made a quite likeable figure instead of an imperious dragon lady—and Pélégrin, the registrar and matchmaker who is ultimately exposed as a well-intentioned fraud, play their cameo roles for all they are worth. The one reservation concerns Eberhard Wächter as Count René. Wächter rocketed to fame in the late 1950s and for a few years was a Don Giovanni of choice in Mozart’s masterpiece, but his voice declined with undue rapidity during the mid 1960s. By 1972, when this film was made, he still had the vocal heft that once enabled him to sing some Wagnerian roles, but it had turned somewhat brassy and his top notes are forced and have an unsteady vibrato. That said, he has a complete grasp of the style (he recorded excerpts of the role in 1965 for Decca opposite Hilde Güden) and is a dashingly handsome presence, and the vocal shortcomings are not so bad as to be painful. The conducting and choral singing are right on the mark, and the video and sound quality quite satisfactory.
I have not been able to see either of the DVD versions reviewed by Williams, but as I have read comments by others that were less enchanted with the updated staging (set in the 1950s), and the vocal cast here is much superior to that in the Videoland set, I would make this (despite the cuts) my version of choice on DVD. On CD, the EMI recording with Lucia Popp, Nicolai Gedda, Renate Holm, Willi Brokmeier, Kurt Böhme, and the Bavarian State Opera conducted by Willy Mattes is out of print. However, even if it was available, I would still prefer the 1951 radio broadcast with Lore Hoffmann, Rudolf Schock, Annaliese Rothenberger, Rupert Glawitsch, Fritz Göllnitz, and the NWDR Symphony conducted by Wilhelm Stephan, which is far more stylish. That version is available from Europe on two budget labels, Line (Cantus Classics) and Documents (Membran).
The situation with Zigeunerliebe is much more straightforward, as this is the only version available on DVD. Fortunately, this 1974 film version, directed by Václav Ka?lik, is stupendous. The filming is absolutely gorgeous, with marvelous natural scenery, wild horseback rides, and magnificent period costumes and sets. The extended act II dream sequence, an extremely tricky thing to realize, is wonderfully conceptualized and executed here. The singing is equally glorious. Janet Perry dispatches the role of Zorika, with its dauntingly high tessitura and need to override a full orchestra, beautifully and without any strain or wobble. Ion Buzea is an ardent Józsi with a ringing, secure tenor voice, while Adolf Dallapozza offers a beatifully lyrical and touching Jonel. In the supporting roles, Collete Lorand is a fine Ilona, while Heinz Friedrich and longtime operetta veteran Kurt Großkurth do colorful turns as Peter Dragotin and Mihály. Heinz Wallberg and his Bavarian forces offer stellar choral and instrumental support and are provided with fine recorded sound. While a few cuts are taken, the plotline is thereby made infinitely more coherent. (I read both the synopsis and the complete libretto in the CPO set, and they made the plots of Die Zauberflöte and Il trovatore look like models of linear logic.)
In short, this is the version of choice for Zigeunerliebe in any medium and has my glowing recommendation. It is vastly superior to the CPO CD set, with its mediocre singing (far worse, in my view, than Williams allows). So far as I can tell, there has never been any other complete studio version made. There are three historic broadcast performances available, again on the Line and Documents labels, dating from 1949, 1950, and 1951 (another source says 1953 for the latter):
1949: Helen Werth, Rudolf Schock, Gisela Litz, Rupert Glawitsch, and Gustav Neidlinger (as Peter Dragotin), with Wilhelm Stephan conducting the NWDR Symphony;
1950: Esther Réthy, Franz Borsos, Liesl Andergast, and Rudolf Christ, with Max Schönherr conducting the Vienna Radio Orchestra;
1951 (or 1953): Lisa Otto, Rudolf Schock, Jarmila K?irová, and Jean Löhe, with Fried Walter conducting the RIAS Unterhaltungs Orchestra.
Rudolf Schock also recorded excerpts with Margit Schramm, Dorothea Chryst, and Julius Katona with Robert Stolz and the Berlin Symphony sometime in the 1960s that was issued on a Eurodisc CD that is long out of print. Dedicated collectors of historical vocal recordings may wish to try to find an old Urania LP set of a radio broadcast from c.1950 with Herbert Ernst Groh, Rösl Seegers, and Adi Appelt, with Otto Dobrindt conducting the Berlin Radio Orchestra.
FANFARE: James A. Altena
Picture Format: NTSC 4:3
Sound Format: PCM Stereo
Region Code: 0 (All Region)
Duration: 88 minutes
Recording: Operetta film from 1974
Subtitles: English, German
Language French Read less
Works on This Recording
Zigeunerliebe by Franz Lehár
Janet Perry (Soprano),
Adolf Dallapozza (Tenor),
Ion Buzea (Tenor),
Heinz Friedrich (Voice)
Munich Radio Orchestra
Written: 1909-1910; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 1974
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