Notes and Editorial Reviews
Operetta Film, 1971
Olga – Tatjana Iwanow
Couder – Horst Niendorf
Alice – Gabriele Jacoby
Freddy Wehrburg – Gerhart Lippert
Daisy – Regina Lemnitz
Hans von Schlick – Stefan Behrens
Dora – Ingrid van Bergen
Miss Mibbs – Käte Jaenicke
Liftboy – Randolph Rose
Tom – Ulrich Beiger
Dick – Ulrich del Mestre
First Servant – Wolfgang Spier
Second Servant – Klaus Jägel
Graunke Symphony Orchestra
Bert Grund, conductor
Klaus Überall, television director
Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: German, English, French
Running time: 87 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)R E V I E W S:
Bert Grund, cond; Gabriele Jacoby (
); Gerhard Lippert (
); Regina Lemnitz (
); Stefan Behrens (
Hans von Schlick
); Horst Niendorf (
); Tatjana Iwanow (
); Ingrid van Bergen (
); Käte Jaenicke (
); Kurt Graunke SO Munich
ARTHAUS MUSIK 101 624 (DVD: 87:00)
During the heyday of operetta in the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was quite usual to modify these light works to some degree when taking them from place to place; there were no inviolate scores or librettos carefully guarded by a publisher, as was the case in opera. Leo Fall’s
which opened in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna in 1907, is a particularly conspicuous example. Mounted in both London and New York in 1909, the work was extensively changed in both versions while retaining the majority of Fall’s felicitous music. The New York production had new songs interpolated, composed by Jerome Kern as well as Fall himself, and featured a third act set in London rather than Canada, as in the original. The London version third act was completely rewritten and set in California with some new music. Such was the sanctity of the lightly regarded operetta.
That tradition continued with this 1971 made-for-German-television film. The music has been newly arranged by Bert Dreyer and the third act is now set in Colorado, complete with rustic cabin, saloon with feisty female barkeep, and dancing Indians, all very reminiscent of Puccini’s
La Fanciulla del West
. Without the original score it is difficult to ascertain how much of Fall’s music remains. Some songs are recognizable, such as “Wir tanzen Ringelreihen” (We Dance Ring-a-rosie), “Hipp, hipp, hurra,” and “Das sind die Dollarprinzessin” (These Are the Dollar Princesses). Others such as “In Colorado” are either new or with new lyrics to existing music. There is a charming chorus of dancing typists complete with clacking typewriters in the opening scene, which seems common to all versions. All of the songs and ensembles have been shortened to one verse and go by very quickly; the several choreographed dance sequences seem quite short as well. All of the seven or eight principals get to sing, but none of them very much. The TV production is short, less than 90 minutes (perhaps two hours with station breaks and commercials inserted).
For those, like me, who are not familiar with the term “dollar princess,” it is a semi-derisive epithet to describe rich American heiresses who went trolling the impoverished European aristocracy looking for a title to validate their newfound wealth and social position. In this case, the work’s title should really be the
, for it is the wealthy American father and businessman John Couder who seeks out a Russian grand duchess and has her brought to New York with the intention of matrimony. She turns out to be a ringer, an ex-actress and circus performer, but the old man likes her anyway. Couder finds it humorous to collect impoverished European nobility as his servant staff. An archduke butler and his assistant, who is merely a duke, provide much of the production’s comedy (possibly funnier in German than the English subtitles). The rich heiress here is Alice, Couder’s daughter and business manager. She actually falls for middle-class Freddy, another European working for her father, but the romance falters near the end of act II. The second amorous pair, typical in most Viennese operetta, is Couder’s niece Daisy and his riding instructor and head groom, Hans von Schlick, who is a count or some such. Hans gives Daisy a musical riding lesson on rocking horses and they run off to Europe together when the old man disapproves of their union. As I mentioned, act III takes place in the wild west of Colorado, and all the players gather there a year later amid song and dance for a rapid sorting out and a happy finale. (Couder and company journey in a 1920s automobile, not a wagon train, but the European pair must have flown in to Denver airport.)
All of the singers perform well; the audio portion is pre-taped, so everyone had an opportunity to get it right. Perhaps the best-sung role is the Alice of Gabriele Jacoby, a German television favorite of that period who played Eliza Doolittle in a major German production of
My Fair Lady.
Her boyfriend, Freddy, sung by Gerhart Lippert, seems to have a bit of a waver in his high register, but then none of them sing enough to really tell. The dancing is quite slick and enjoyable; as another reviewer put it, straight from the Lawrence Welk show. The music is tuneful, whether by Fall or not; sets are numerous and nicely crafted; and the filming is first-rate. This is a charming if rather frivolous piece of fluff and a quite entertaining way to spend a bit of time. For the purists what can I say? If not strictly a Leo Fall operetta, this production is a Fall adaptation, and the only one on video. Recommended.
FANFARE: Bill White
Leo Fall was the son of a military bandmaster. He received a thorough musical training, studying with Robert Fuchs at the Vienna Conservatory and later played as a violinist alongside Franz Lehár in the band conducted by the latter’s father. His first success was
Die Fidele Bauer, first produced in Mannheim in 1907, a splendid recording of which I reviewed last year. It was followed by
Die Dollarprinzessin (The Dollar Princess) which had already been commissioned for Vienna and was produced there with great success in November of that year. Versions followed in 1908 in England and in 1909 in New York. Both were heavily rewritten as was usual at that time, the version for London being by Basil Hood and Adrian Ross and that for New York being by George Grossmith Junior and including additional songs by Jerome Kern.
The plot was absolutely up to the minute, concerning an American millionaire who employs penniless European nobility in menial positions. His daughter has a similarly hardboiled approach to wealth but she is nonetheless rejected initially when she falls in love with the friend of one of these employees. The plot and setting presented opportunities for such up-to-the minute delights as a chorus of typists and an ensemble about a motor journey. It has virtually disappeared from the English-speaking stage but still has occasional performances in Europe. The version on this disc, although drastically altered musically, suggests that revival is well overdue but preferably in a version closer to the composer’s original scoring.
What we have here is a version by Bert Dreyer which brings the music into the idioms of the 1970s, with crude additional melodies and re-scoring. Frankly it is terrible, but it is possible to listen through it and hear what charm the original must have - I have only heard a few excerpts from the latter. The performers make the most of what they are given, for the most part using a vocal style to match the arrangements but every so often one can hear what they might have been capable of if permitted the composer’s original version. The “stage” direction is lively, sometimes excessively so, with dance scenes reminiscent of light entertainment shows of the 1970s.
Despite all of this I enjoyed it from beginning to end, even while wishing that it had been done differently. All the indignities heaped on the music are not enough to take away its essential charm or the interest of the plot, and the performers are all clearly experienced in putting this kind of piece over convincingly. There is plenty of room in the catalogues for a CD or DVD of the work which is closer to the original, but in the meantime this outrageously rewritten version is well worth seeing for its own - very different - merits and for the clues it gives as to those of Fall’s original.
-- John Sheppard, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Die Dollarprinzessin by Leo Fall
Regina Lemnitz (Voice),
Gabriele Jacoby (Voice),
Tatjana Iwanow (Voice),
Horst Niendorf (Voice),
Gerhard Lippert (Voice),
Stefan Behrens (Voice)
Graunke Symphony Orchestra
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