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Alwyn, Grace Williams, Arnold, Wordsworth. Searle, Joubert

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Carl MILLÖCKER (1842-1899)
Gasparone - Operetta in three Acts (1884) [92.08]
Carlotta - Anneliese Rothenberger
Der Fremde - Hermann Prey
Baboleno Nasoni - Günter Wewel
Sora - Gabriele Fuchs
Benozza - Martin Finke
Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper München
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Heinz Wallberg
rec. Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich, Germany, 1-5 December 1981
EMI CLASSICS ELECTROLA 6150672 [44.27 + 37.41]

Gasparone proved to be Carl Millöcker’s second most popular operetta after Der Bettelstudent. It pleased Viennese audiences in 1884 with some fifty performances in two runs in that year. It also pleased Berliners and London and New York audiences. In succeeding years re-workings were made to align Gasparone with changing tastes. The 1931 version proved most successful and serves as the basis for the present recording. It was this version that introduced the second biggest hit in the show, ‘Dunkelrote Rosen’ that was lifted from an earlier, failed Millöcker operetta, Der Vizeadmiral.
Gasparone has an Italian (Sicilian) bandit story although the brigand Gasparone, mentioned in hushed alarmed tones through the story, does not appear. Rather, a stranger does so, masquerading as the notorious bandit to save the heiress, Carlotta, from the machinations of the Mayor who wants his son to marry the girl so he can get his hands on her money.
The operetta is frothy and full of joie de vivre. Sicilian folk colour is supplemented by a range of operetta genre forms: refulgent waltzes as well as march and dance rhythms. Wallberg’s orchestra shines throughout. So often my ears were seduced by its uninhibited, lusciously romantic playing.
This production stars Anneliese Rothenberger as Carlotta. Rothenberger was a great lyric coloratura soprano - she died as recently as 2010 - and shone in Mozart and Richard Strauss; Lotte Lehmann called her Rosenkavalier’s Sophie the best in the world. Her co-star, as the stranger, is lyric baritone, Hermann Prey (1929-1998) who distinguished himself in Lieder and light comic operatic roles such as Papageno and Figaro.
The big hit of the show does not appear until Act III with ‘Er soll dein Herr sein, wie stolz das klingt’ (‘He shall be your man). So the lovely waltz ‘Dunkelrote Rosen’ was a distinct asset and its delivery here by Prey is expressively ardent and passionate. He woos Rothenberger eagerly then gently in their Act I duet ‘Hüten Sie sich vor dem schmeichlerishen Paar’ and they are blissful in their gorgeous Act II duet ‘O schweigen, Sie ich will nichts hören.’
Of the supporting roles, Günter Wewel shines as a Beckmesser-like Mayor Nasoni.
As is often the case in this repertoire, this 2 CD set has many tracks devoted to dialogue so those listeners not proficient in German will be at a distinct advantage.
An enjoyable production with Wallberg’s orchestra magnificent.

Ian Lace