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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Wagner: Tristan und Isolde, Act III; Millocker: Gasparone

05/21/2017 1:00 pm
05/21/2017 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

The problem with broadcasting the operas of Richard Wagner is that many of them are too long in duration to fit into my three-and-a-half hour timeslot. Although I hate to violate the integrity of a complete recorded performance, the only way I can accommodate Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (1865) is to break up my presentation into two parts over two Sundays. Last Sunday I presented the first two of the three acts of this monumental music drama, and today you will hear the third.

Following the final act of the historic 1952 recording of the Furtwängler Tristan und Isolde, we turn from the tragic Liebestod of the two lovers to lighter lyric theater music in the mode of Viennese operetta.

Carl Millocker (1842-99) was a native of Vienna and contemporary of Franz von Suppe and "The Waltz King" Johann Strauss. This trio of composers took part in the Golden Age of the genre. (A Silver Age succeeded it in the early twentieth century with the works of Central European composers like Franz Lehar and Leo Fall.) Millocker wrote a slew of tuneful operettas. One such was Der Bettelstudent ("The Beggar Student," 1882), which rivaled Die Fledermaus in popularity. On Sunday, August 17, 2003 I broadcast the Omega CD reissue of a 1955 mono recording of Der Bettelstudent with Anton Paulik conducting the chorus and orchestra of the Vienna Volksoper.

Another enormously popular work by Millocker is Gasparone (1884). The notorious brigand by that name never actually makes an appearance onstage. He is, however, conveniently blamed for stealing Countess Carlotta's fortune. The setting of the operetta is Sicily, which allowed Millocker to introduce some Italianate folk elements into his music. Millocker's original score was reorchestrated in 1931 by Paul Knepler and Ernst Steffan. It is that modernized version of Gasparone that was recorded for German EMI Electrola in 1981 in the studios of Bavarian Radio, Munich. Starring as Carlotta is soprano Anneliese Rothenberger. Heard as the Stranger who poses as the brigand is baritone Hermann Prey. Gasparone made a reappearance in 2013 on two compact discs in the "Electrola Collection" series issued through EMI Classics.