ZAUBER DER OPERETTE • Various performers • DOCUMENTS 233424 (100 CDs: 83:00:00 + DVD 115:00)
Back in Fanfare 35:3 I enthusiastically reviewed a 10-CD super-budget-priced set (10 euros) on the Documents label, issued by Membran Music, consisting of 215 excerpts from 137 operettas by 42 different composers, performed by 115 different singers under 25 conductors. With this new set, if you are an operetta maven, you will believe that the Read more style="font-style:italic">Parousia has occurred. It contains 54 complete operettas on 100 CDs, with a bonus DVD of Eine Nacht in Venedig by Johann Strauss Jr.—about 85 hours of music total, for less than $100! (The set lists for more than that, especially from the very few domestic sources for it; however, several German websites such as jpc.de presently list it for 50–60 euros, with a modest shipping charge to the U.S. of only another 15 euros.)
Since the aforementioned 10-CD set concentrated on operetta rarities, it did not simply draw upon the contents of this encyclopedic collection, which is more oriented toward standard operetta repertoire (though not lacking in rarities either). Each set thus has a significant amount of material not included in the other, so it is definitely worth getting both. (On a side note, for my last review I was unable to find the first names of three of the composers with arias featured in that set. I have since located two complete names and a first initial for the third: Carl Christoph Clarmann, Walter Jäger, and R. Schmidt.)
The contents of this anthology are (with one exception) arranged alphabetically by composer:
Paul Abraham (Pál Ábrahám): Viktoria und ihr Hussar
Ralph Benatzky: Bezauberndes Fräulein, Meine Schwester und ich, Im weissen Rössl
Nico (Nikolaus) Dostal: Clivia, Die Ungarische Hochzeit
Leo Fall: Der fidele Bauer, Der liebe Augustin, Die Kaiserin
Jean Gilbert: Katja die Tänzerin
Walter Goetze: Adrienne
Georg Jarno: Die Försterchristl
Léon Jessel: Schwarzwaldmädel
Sidney Jones: Die Geisha
Emmerich Kálmán: Das Veilchen von Montmartre, Der Zigeunerprimas, Die Czárdásfürstin, Die Zirkusprinzessin, Gräfin Mariza
Walter Kollo: Drei alte Schachteln, Marietta
Eduard Künneke (or Künnecke): Der Vetter aus Dingsda, Die grosse Sünderin, Liselott
Franz Lehár: Das Land des Lächelns, Der Graf von Luxemburg, Die lustige Witwe, Paganini, Zigeunerliebe
Paul Lincke: Frau Luna
Carl Millöcker: Der Bettelstudent, Gasparone, Die Dubarry (with Theo Mackeben)
Jacques Offenbach: Der Ehemann vor der Tür, Der Regimentszauberer, Die Insel Tulipatan, Die Schwätzerin von Saragossa, Fantasio, Orpheus in der Unterwelt, Pépito
Fred Raymond: Maske in Blau
Robert Stolz: Himmelblaue Träume
Oskar Straus: Der letzte Walzer, Die Teresina, Ein Walzertraum
Johann Strauss Jr.: Der Zigeunerbaron, Die Fledermaus, Die Tänzerin Fanny Elssler, Eine Nacht in Venedig, Tausend und eine Nacht
Franz von Suppé: Banditenstreiche, Boccaccio, Die schöne Galathée
Karl Ziehrer: Die Landstreicher
As for conductors, 29 of the 54 works on CD feature the indefatigable Franz Marszalek on the podium. Ten performances are led by Wilhelm Stephan (Clivia, Der Vetter aus Dingsda, Der Graf von Luxemburg, Die lustige Witwe, Zigeunerliebe, Frau Luna, Fantasio, Maske in Blau, Tausend und eine Nacht, Die Landstreicher), seven by Werner Schmidt-Boelke (Das Veilchen von Montmartre, Der Zigeunerprimas, Gräfin Mariza, Liselott, Das Land des Lächelns, Die Tänzerin Fanny Elssler, Banditenstreiche), three by Paul Burkhard (Der Regimentszauberer, Die Insel Tulipatan, Orpheus in der Unterwelt), two by Kurt Schröder (Der Bettelstudent, Pépito), and one each by Ferenc Fricsay (Die Fledermaus), Wilhem Schüchter (Boccaccio), and Fried Walter (Die Dubarry). Ernst Märzendorfer heads the bonus performance of Eine Nacht in Venedig on DVD.
Among the artists commonly encountered in both sets (there are far too many comprimario singers to provide an exhaustive list here, as I did with the singers in the previously reviewed set) are Peter Anders, Franz Fehringer, Rupert Glawitsch, Kurt Grosskurth, Heinz Hoppe, Erika Köth, Annaliese Rothenberger, Anne Schlemm, Rudolf Schock, Rita Streich, and Herta Talmar. Gisela Litz, not represented in the previously reviewed set, makes several appearances here. Notable singers who appear in one or two works are Kurt Böhme, Wolfgang Brendel, Georg Hann, Sena Jurinac, Paul Kuen, Gustav Neidlinger (no, not in Der lustige Nibelung!), and Karl Schmitt-Walter. The quality of the singing, instrumental playing, and conducting is never less than satisfactory and sometimes (as in the case of the famed and often-reissued Fricsay Fledermaus) even outstanding.
All of these performances are German radio broadcasts—mostly from Hamburg, Cologne, and Munich—dating from 1949 to 1958. (The overture to Die lustige Witwe is a 1946 recording with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, conducted by Lehár himself.) They are accordingly sung in German, including the Offenbach operettas and Jones’s The Geisha. As German radio broadcasts at that time were of astonishingly high quality, all of these performances are preserved in excellent monaural sound. The supplemental DVD of Eine Nacht in Venedig is a studio film version made in 1976; it is shot in color, but the print used for this issue is of poor quality, with somewhat fuzzy resolution and flecks of dropout, though it is still tolerable to watch. All of the works are given with spoken dialog, passages of which are assigned separate tracks should you wish to skip over those and listen only to the music.
The set comes in a long box that contains 50 two-CD cardboard gatefold jackets, each of which displays all the details (including lists of tracks and timings) for the performance it contains, plus a separate single cardboard sleeve for the DVD. While documentation is much improved over the previously reviewed 10-CD set of excerpts, it is still fairly minimal. Here the composers and conductors, as well as the singers, have their full names provided, and singers are specified for all the roles they sing. All the performances list the orchestra, the original broadcast locale, and the year of the performance. Unfortunately, no libretti are included in any form, and an enclosed 44-page booklet with a summary list of the operettas and brief notes (with photos) on some of the leading singers is in German only. The top side of the exterior box has an egregious editing error that omits most of the title of Orpheus in der Unterwelt (it is printed correctly on the other sides of the box). While the lack of libretti is a handicap, no lover of operetta can afford to be without this fantastic bargain. Since these Membran mega-box sets tend to go out of print rather quickly, make its acquisition an immediate high priority if you are a fan of this repertoire. Recommended with unbounded enthusiasm.
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