This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Though its overture may be a little less seldom played than half a dozen or so others, Boccaccio holds the distinction of being Suppé's most successful operetta. Produced in Vienna in 1879 (between Fledermaus and Zigeunerbaron), it has a libretto by the leading Viennese librettists F. Zell and Richard Genée revolving around the celebrated Italian poet. Like Offenbach's Hoffmann, who took the stage two years later, Suppé's Boccaccio finds himself up against adversity, in this case forced to disguise himself as a beggar and watch his books being burned. Also mirroring Offenbach's opera is the central act in which Boccaccio appears as a character in one of his stories; but unlike Offenbach's opera (and thus underlying the
essence of operetta) our hero here gets his girl in the end—in this case Fiametta, illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Tuscany.
Musically the piece is less what we naturally think of as Viennese operetta than an extension of the style of Suppé's overtures. The occasional waltz seems to crop up purely accidentally, and the sprightly and rumbustious mood of the overture spreads over into a score full of racy and boisterous melodies. There are naturally some quieter moments, among them perhaps the most widely known individual number from the score, Fiametta's "Hab' ich nur deine Liebe", but these are hardly typical of the work. Suppé sounds much more at home when a lot is happening, and there are pages and pages of extended ensembles with large scale choruses and ambitious part writing.
Back in the 1950s there was a single record of excerpts from the operetta with a strong Vienna Volksoper cast directed by Anton Paulik (Philips NBL5026, 2/56—nla). Then much of the extended writing had to go, so that this two-disc set, originally issued in Germany in 1975, gives a far better idea of the work and generally surpasses it in every conceivable way. Even with 1 hour 50 minutes' playing time and a minimum of dialogue, though, not everything can be accommodated, so that three short numbers in Acts 2 and 3 have had to be omitted.
What remains is truly splendidly done. This is very much a work dominated by male characters, since originally the role of Boccaccio himself was played by a woman. Electrola have sensibly allocated it to a baritone and have assembled a strong male cast right down to Walter Berry (a survivor from the 1950s recording, incidentally) in the small role of a student. Hermann Prey gives for me one of his most compelling performances in the title role, his famous "Das ist doch jedem klar" sung with a finely judged gentle charm. Adolf Dallapozza and Friedrich Lenz make appealing tenor tradesmen in Act 2, the former's "Cooper's Song" most excellently sung with its chorus of journeymen beating time with their hammers as they sing. At the lower end of the male vocal range are attractively weighty contributions from Günter Wewel as a beggar and Kurt Böhme as a barber with a Don Giovannistyle serenade to sing. Anneliese Rothenberger was not in the purest of voices even in 1975, but, as I have indicated, the women's contribution is small and she and Edda Moser do what is required of them admirably enough.
In such a naturally lively work much depends on the conductor, and happily Willi Boskovsky maintains the momentum and high spirits of the score superbly well. There is a good sense of spread in the recording, and altogether this ranks as another highly recommendable recording in Electrola's splendid operetta series.
-- Gramophone [12/1980, reviewing the LP release, EMI 30216]
Works on This Recording
Boccaccio by Franz von Suppé
Anneliese Rothenberger (Soprano),
Walter Berry (Bass Baritone),
Kurt Böhme (Bass Baritone),
Adolf Dallapozza (Tenor),
Kari Lövaas (Soprano),
Edda Moser (Soprano),
Willi Brokmeier (Tenor),
Friedrich Lenz (Tenor),
Gisela Litz (Mezzo Soprano),
Bruno Pola (Baritone),
Günter Wewel (Bass),
Hermann Prey (Baritone)
Bavarian State Opera Chorus,
Bavarian Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1879; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 1974
Venue: Bürgerbräu, Munich, Germany
Length: 105 Minutes 28 Secs.
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