University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Lehar: Der Graf von Luxemburg; Kálmán: Ein Herbstmanöver

12/29/2019 1:00 pm
12/29/2019 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Near the end of his career as a composer of Viennese operetta the Hungarian, Franz Lehar (1870-1948) wrote a series of sentimental bittersweet works like "The Land of Smiles" (1929), all of which were designed as vehicles for the voice of his star tenor, Richard Tauber. Lehar's earlier style of operetta was more comedic and sprightly and produced hits that made him famous. "The Merry Widow" (1905) was his breakthough work in that line. Following Die Lustige Witwe came Der Graf von Luxemburg in 1909. The setting of this operetta is Paris in La Belle Epoque. The story revolves around whether to marry for love or money. Why not marry somebody who's filthy rich and has a noble title! The tunes from "The Count of Luxemburg" were so popular that in 1910 something like an "original cast album" was made on a series of 78 RPM acoustic discs. There's a modern musically complete cast recording available since 2017 on two Oehms Classics compact discs. It presents a 2015 staged revival by Frankfurt Opera, and documents a live performance, although Oehms has eliminated the spoken dialogue between the musical numbers. Eun Sun Kim conducts the Museum Orchestra of Frankfurt Opera and the Frankfurt Opera Chorus.

At roughly the same time that Der Graf von Luxemburg was wowing audiences in Vienna, another operetta composer from Hungary, Emmerich (or Imre) Kálmán (1882-1953) was beginning his career in Budapest with the production of his first successful work, originally titled Tatárjárás in Hungarian. It premiered in Vienna on New Year's Day, 1909, where it was sung in German and retitled Ein Herbstmanöver or "An Autumn Maneuver." A subsequent production in New York gave it yet another title in English language: The Gay Hussars. By the looks of photos of the 2018 staging by Giessen State Theater, Ein Herbstmanöver does indeed have a "gay' sensibility. Michael Hofstetter conducts the Giessen Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chorus of the Giessen State Theater. Writing for Fanfare magazine (Sept/Oct 2019 issue) reviewer Ken Meltzer says, "Ein Herbstmanöver is a work deserving of a first-rate performance, and that is what it receives in a recording on the Oehms Classics label… For the recording, the dialogue is pared to a minimum… All of the principals sing with rich, attractive voices, taste and a keen affinity for Kálmán's rich and elegant score... Hofstetter leads a sparkling performance that never drags, but likewise savors the beauty of Kálmán's orchestral and vocal writing. The subsidiary roles, including spoken parts, are expertly performed as well."