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Johann STRAUSS (1825-1899) and Oscar STRAUS (1870-1954)
Le Trois Valses (Drei Walzer) (The Three Waltzes) (1935)
Suzy Delair (sop) Fanny, Yvette, Irene; Jean Desailly (ten) Octave, Phillipe, Gérald; Robert Pisani (bar) Father Brunner; Robert Piquet (bar) Brunner's Son.
Choir and Orchestra under the direction of Richard Blareau
Rec. Universal (Decca) Studios, Antony, France

2 CDs for the price of one

This three-act frolic was put together by Oscar Straus as a vehicle for the waltz music of the Strauss composers, Johann (father) and Johann (son), together with his own Viennese music of the familiar style.

It was first presented in Zurich and its initial success prompted a version to open at the Bouffes-Parisiens two years later. It was the Paris version that brought it world fame (with Yvonne Printemps and Pierre Fresnay, her husband, in the title roles). No doubt it helped Paris was hosting a world trade fair at the time and was crammed with international visitors.

The libretto by Knepler and Robinson devotes each of its three acts to the periods– 1865, 1900 and 1935. It follows three generations of a theatrical family, starting with Fanny Pichler (a ballerina) in Act I. Act II follows Fanny's daughter, Charlotte Pichler (a famous operetta singer), while Act III covers Charlotte's daughter Franzi (a big film star). A focus of interest in each act is a waltz number.

The French version differs in that the dates were adjusted to coincide with the occasions of three Paris expositions – 1867, 1900 and 1937. Also, the main lead was altered to become a non-singing part for Fresnay, its director. The lead character has her names changed to Fanny, Yvette, and Irène.

The Paris production was a triumph and all of Paris turned out to see it. An expensive film version was put together to maximise the show's popularity, yet an English version for New York and London ran for a mere 12 weeks. As Traubner observes, this was the last of the successful Viennese shows to be known outside Austria.

The stirring music is well played in this the only recording, and the soloists don't disappoint either. Susy Delair as Fanny has a warm and lilting style that blends well with the waltz themes. The Brunners complement each other admirably in their Act I duet/dialogue number.

I thought that the orchestral opening to the Brunners' duet opening was 'The Parade of the Tin Soldiers'. One will also detect the Radetsky March amongst the kaleidoscope of scenes and songs. Blareau has the orchestra playing with due sensitivity and rhythm.

This set is well recorded with a warm ambience. It is also much better filled than most of the series. The notes in French are not very helpful in explaining the background to the piece. A soloist Mme Jules is not indicated in the cast list. The set, as the rest of this series, is provided with an attractive card case in place of the dreary jewel box

Raymond Walker

Operette series from Universal Accord reviewed by Ray Walker

Further reading: "Operetta", Traubner (Oxford 2003); ‘Musicals", Ganzl (Carlton 1995)


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