Gems a-plenty here – not all of them that well known – but everything is definitely worth the operetta lovers’ acquaintance.
The recordings are 50+ years old but much more than acceptable, the playing somewhat variable but never less than satisfying, and the singing? Well, just look at the names.
Hilde Güden, who appears in half a dozen of these numbers, was the operetta queen of the period, only challenged by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Here she sings to the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and the conductor is Robert Stolz, himself a composer of operettas (more than seventy) and a leading conductor of this repertoire. The Viennese lilt is obvious.
Hungarian-born Sandor Konya was not only the best Lohengrin of his day but also a glorious operetta hero – not always the most sophisticated one but full-throated and thrilling.
Anneliese Rothenberger was the foremost operetta soprano in the generation after Schwarzkopf and Güden. She took part in numerous complete recordings, often partnered by Nicolai Gedda. Here she sings with the lesser-known Helga Hildebrand Im chamber séparée – and not only the well-known seductive slow waltz but its lively preceding introduction.
Karl Terkal (1919 – 1996) is a vital lyrical singer in the Waldemar Kmentt mould.
The young Hermann Prey is excellent in an excerpt from the complete Zigeunerbaron with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Otto Ackermann.
From the same operetta – but not the same recording – we meet basso Kurt Böhme in his element as the larger-than-life pig farmer Kálmán Zsupán.
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s Sei nicht bös from Der Vogelhändler is from her legendary operetta-LP with Ackermann and the Philharmonia caught on tape in 1957. No one has ever sung this song with such allure.
Wilma Lipp was an early favourite of mine as The Queen of the Night on an EP with excerpts from Karl Böhm’s Decca recording of Die Zauberflöte. Her light soprano with glittering top notes is just as lively here in a duet from Der Bettelstudent together with a reliable Karl Terkal.
Fritz Wunderlich was the best German lyric tenor since Richard Tauber and no one, bar Nicolai Gedda, had such beauty of tone, elegance and taste. It's a pity that the orchestral arrangement is so soapy – and the angel chorus is hard to stomach.
Rudolf Schock was immensely popular in Germany for many years, but I have always found him rather four-square and dry-voiced.
Peter Anders, on the other hand, is very good, although here he is very closely recorded. The recording is from 1953. That was the year before his untimely death in a car crash, which robbed the operatic world of a splendid lyric-dramatic tenor, due to make his Metropolitan debut before long.
Waldemar Kmentt had an uncommonly long career at the Vienna State Opera, where he made his debut in 1951. When I visited Vienna in 2002 he was still singing in Die lustige Witwe, aged 73. The year before he had made his Metropolitan debut as the Haushofmeister in Ariadne auf Naxos. Here, recorded in 1958, he sings well in the aria from Giuditta.
Nicolai Gedda didn’t appear on stage very often in operetta – though he took part in dozens of recordings – but he was Prince Sou-Chong in Das Land des Lächelns at Volksoper in Vienna when he was at the height of his powers. As ever he is the aristocrat among operatic tenors.
Konya brings this attractive collection to a thrilling end with a full-throated reading of Ich bin nur ein armer Wandergesell. The song is lovely but there is so much more poetry in it and if you can get hold of a copy of Erland Hagegård’s recording from the early 1980s you will get the real thing. It is sung in Swedish, but Swedish is a good language for singing.
Every operetta lover will find lots to admire here.
Johann STRAUSS II (1825 – 1899)
1. Mein Herr Marquis [3:20]
Eine Nacht in Venedig
2. Komm in die Gondel [4:01]
Richard HEUBERGER (1850 – 1914)
3. Im chambre séparée [6:03]
Johann STRAUSS II
4. Wer uns getraut [3:43]
5. Her die Hand, es muss ja sein [2:33]
6. Ja das schreiben und das lesen [2:37]
Carl ZELLER (1842 – 1898)
7. Sei nicht bös [4:16]
Karl MILLÖCKER (1842 – 1899)
8. Soll ich reden? Darf ich schweigen? [3:31]
Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1882 – 1953)
9. Grüss mir mein Wien [2:39]
10. Sag ja, mein Lied, sag ja [4:13]
11. Zwei Märchenaugen [3:40]
Leo FALL (1873 – 1925)
12. Heut könnt einer sein Glück bei mir machen [2:28]
Franz LEHÀR (1870 – 1948)
13. Hab ein blaues Himmelbett [3:22]
14. Im heimlichen Dämmer der silbernen Ampel [4:16]
15. Du bist meine Sonne [3:23]
16. Hör ich Zymbalklänge [4:07]
Das Land des Lächelns
17. Von Apfelblüten einen Kranz [4:03]
Rudolf KATTNIG (1895 – 1955)
18. Leise erklingen die Glocken vom Campanile [3:36]
Robert STOLZ (1880 – 1975)
Im Weissen Rössl
19. Mein Liebeslied muss ein Walzer sein [2:56]
Eduard KÜNNEKE (1885 – 1953]
Der Vetter aus Dingsda
20. Ich bin nur ein armer Wandergesell [3:07]
Hilde Güden (soprano) (1, 4, 10, 12, 16, 19); Anneliese Rothenberger (soprano) (3, 14, 18); Helga Hildebrand (soprano) (3); Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano) (8); Wilma Lipp (soprano) (8); Sandor Konya (tenor) (2, 20); Karl Terkal (tenor) (4, 8); Fritz Wunderlich (tenor) (9); Rudolf Schock (tenor) (11); Peter Anders (tenor) (13); Waldemar Kmentt (tenor) (15); Nicolai Gedda (tenor) (17); Hermann Prey (baritone) (5); Kurt Böhme (bass) (6); various orchestras and conductors incl Robert Stolz, Otto Ackermann and Rudolf Moralt