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Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Le Comte de Luxembourg (The Count of Luxemburg) (extracts) (1909)
Colette Riedinger (soprano) Suzanne Didier; Gabriel Bacquier (baritone) Fernand de Luxembourg; Robert Destain (tenor) Brissard; Annick Baugé (soprano) Juliette; André Balbon (baritone) Prince Basil;
Charles Pernès Choir
Frasquita (extracts) (1922), French adaptation (1931)
Bernard Alvi (tenor) Armand; Kleuza de Pennafort (mezzo) Frasquita;
Robert Destain (tenor) Hippolyte; Colette Muzart (soprano) Aimée; André Balbon (baritone) Aristide; Marthe Amour (soprano) Inès; Motta Luna (soprano) Lola
La Veuve Joyeuse (The Merry Widow) (extracts) (1905)
Colette Riedinger (soprano) Missia; Marthe Amour (soprano)  Nadia;
Reda Caire (tenor) Danilo; Bernard Alvi (tenor) Camille; Robert Destain (tenor) Popoff; Georges Courly (baritone) Kromtsky;
Decca Studio orchestra/Richard Blareau
rec. Decca, Antony, France, 1955 (Count of Luxemburg) and 1958 (Frasquita; Merry Widow) ADD
ACCORD OPÉRETTE 476 9992 [69:22 + 79:30]


This set of two well-filled discs provides us with the best numbers of these three operettas in French translation. Both The Count of Luxemburg and The Merry Widow have good English 1960s versions on EMI and modern 1980s versions on TER [ZCTEO1004; ZCTEO1003], yet this 1960s set provides good readings by Blareau. Frasquita is seldom heard outside France, and so this appearance is most welcome. Unlike most of the Opérette series recordings, this set contains no dialogue, with three double LPs being transferred to the two discs.

The Count and Merry Widow need no introduction for the collector interested in operetta. Frasquita is a later lesser known work (written in 1921) which was not so successful. It was a full ten years before a French version appeared with Fanély Revoil in the title rôle in 1931. Lehár then provided an enlarged score for its Paris opening at the Opéra-Comique in 1933. The same André Balbon who features in this recording also took part in that Paris premiere. That French production was equally disappointing, playing for a mere four weeks. Lehár was an admirer of the Zarzuela and a strong Spanish influence is evident in the Frasquita dances although they are omitted from this recording. Frasquita is principally remembered for its serenade, 'Hab ein blaues Himmelbett', a hit song brought to prominence by Richard Tauber.

Collette Riedinger engages herself enthusiastically in her roles yet has a brittle top in forte passages; at other times she conveys much warmth. Annick Baugé turns on her sensuous charm from the outset with velvety tones, while Robert Destain commands a strong presence in their Act I fast march duet, 'Puisqu'il vous plait'. Bernard Alvi sings well, and although Balbon injects a good personality to his parts, he is now past his best and disappoints with a harsh delivery. His 'J'ai le coeur plein' in The Count of Luxemburg is badly written and untuneful to the ear. The large atmospheric choral openings to all three Lehár operettas are impressive and anticipate the colour of the music that is to follow. Frasquita in particular contains much variation of style of writing.

Throughout, Blareau's vivacious pace releases the energetic scintillations of each score, particularly noticeable in The Merry Widow. Although the orchestra is rather recessed, it keeps up with the conductor's drive.

The notes are provided only in French.

Raymond J Walker


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