Rare but delightful
B. Cathey | Wendell, NC United States | 05/03/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Okay, Friedrich von Flotow's opera, ALESSANDRO STRADELLA, will never displace the works of Wagner, Weber, or even Otto Nicolai, but it has its distinctive and appealing charms, as evidenced by this delightful air check issued by Gala at an extremely favorable price. Flotow, of course, is much better known though his opera MARTHA, which still holds the stage, if barely (it once was a major repertoire item at the MET).This production, dating from 1977 (Bayerische Rundfunk), features some fine singing by Werner Hollweg in the title roll, and Helen Donath as Leonore. The easy arias, ensembles, and choruses fall nicely on the ear---much of the music is quite hummable, and indeed, Alessandro's famous aria, "Jungfrau Maria," continues to be a favorite of lyric tenors. Right now, I must confess, I can't get it out of my mind!In sum, a nice addition to the catalog, well worth the pittance to be charged. Thanks to Gala for making this little gem available."
An OK "Stradella" from Flotow teamed with interesting excerp
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 01/12/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"SOURCE for "Alessandro Stradella" by Friedrich von Flotow: Broadcast from Bavarian Radio, July 2, 1977.
SOUND for "Alessandro Stradella": Boxy and compressed stereo with a mildly annoying tape hiss throughout.
CAST for "Alessandro Stradella": Alessandro Stradella, a 17th Century singer whose romances have dire consequences - Werner Hollweg (tenor); Leonore, an attractive lady in difficult circumstances - Helen Donath (soprano); Bassi, a wealthy Venetian who demonstrates his love for Leonore by locking her up until they are to be married - Richard Kogel (baritone); Malvolino, a not very competent assassin hired by Bassi to eliminate Stradella - Alexander Malta (bass-baritone); Barbarino, an even less competent assassin - Ferry Gruber (tenor). CONDUCTOR: Heinz Wallburg with the Orchester und Chor der Bayerischen Rundfunk.
FORMAT for "Alessandro Stradella": Disk 1 - Act I, tracks 1-9; Act II, tracks 10-18; 63:38. Disk 2 - Act III, tracks 1-10; 25:45.
COMMENTARY for "Alessandro Stradella": The real Alessandro Stradella was a baroque composer who had a dangerous taste for seducing the mistresses of rich, powerful, bad-tempered men. News of a forthcoming assassination attempt financed by just such a man convinced the composer to flee from Rome. In 1682, having returned to his old habits, he was murdered in Venice.
Friedrich von Flotow (1812-1883), was born of an aristocratic family and was intended to go into diplomatic service. He diverted himself from that fate by diving into music--French music, it so happened, in the line of Auber and Meyerbeer.
Flotow seems first to have conceived "Alessandro Stradella" as a short sketch. (At a guess, it consisted of the tenor's music in the current Act I and portions of the finale of Act II.) He later expanded the piece into two acts and it met with considerable success. The opera is set in Venice in the late 17th Century. Stradella is shown as a singer, not a composer, a singer of almost Orpheus-like abilities. He finds a young woman being forced into a marriage she opposes. Stradella rescues her from the clutches of her domineering uncle and would-be bridegroom. The jilted man hires two (sort of) comic assassins. The assassins, hearing Stradella sing, are so moved that the can't carry out their assignment. Annoyed, the ex-bridegroom comes to find out why he hasn't got his money's worth. He hears Stradella sing, is moved, gives up his vengeance and all ends happily.
"Alessandro Stradella" is often classified as an operetta. I presume it's because Flotow didn't set his musical sights very high. After an overture (like that of his "Martha") that is strangely portentous for such a lightweight piece, "Alessandro Stradella" consists of a string of simple songs and a couple of ensembles with not very memorable orchestral accompaniment. Stradella's serenade "Horch! Liebschen! Horch!" hardly belongs in an opera at all, since it is patently a German Lied--and not a bad one, at that.
The cast is pretty good, with Texas-born Helen Donath as the best-known and best of the lot. Hollweg, the tenor, is fine but effortful. He sounds much more suited for Walther von Stolzing than the wispy, Orpheus-like Stradella.
SOURCE for "Regina" by Albert Lortzing: Concert excerpts recorded for broadcast on Berlin Radio, 1951.
SOUND for "Regina": Good, crisp 1950s mono.
CAST for "Regina": Simon, a factory owner - Gerhard Frei (bass-baritone); Regina, Simon's daughter - Helen Donath (soprano); Stefan, the production boss - Heinz Friedrich (baritone); Richard, the works inspector - Karl Heinz Stracke (tenor); Killian, a salesman(?) - Ernst Kozub; Barbara, a farm woman - Ilse Scharter (mezzo-soprano); Beate, a house maid - Sonja-Vera Korch; Wolfgang, a revolutionary - Herbert Rungenhagen. CONDUCTOR: Walter Schartner with Grosse Orchester des Berliner Rundfunks with the Grosse Chor and the Maennerchor der Solistenvereinigung des Berliner Rundfunks.
FORMAT for "Regina": Disk 2, excerpts, tracks 11-21, 49:18.
DOCUMENTATION for "Regina": No libretto. No summary of the plot. Brief biographical sketch of Lortzing and the opera. Track list that identifies principal singers.
TEXT for "Regina": Albert Lortzing (1801-1851), the son of an actor who became an actor, a leading tenor, a Kapellmeister (first in Leipsig, then in Vienna), and a composer of popular but lightweight operas, died broke. He appears to have become carried away with the spirit of the almost Europe-wide Revolutions of 1848. He wrote his own libretto and composed the music for a production at the Theater an Wien. Unfortunately for his art but luckily for his personal freedom, he wasn't quite fast enough. When the Revolution was suppressed in October 1848, all concerned decided that discretion was the better part of valor and the unperformed piece was shelved. In 1898, a modified version of the opera was performed in Berlin as "Regina, or The Marauders." The first staged performance of Lortzing's version took place in Leipzig in 1954.
COMMENTARY: My German is not currently good enough to pick up the meaning of a sung text on the wing, as it were (and come to think of it, it never was.) My impression is that "Regina" is a sort of left-wing agit-prop involving the daughter of the Big Boss, some noble-minded working men (or at least managers), picturesque peasants, servants and a revolutionary, a kind of operatic "Waiting for Lefty." The final chorus is a not terribly sincere-sounding affirmation of loyalty to the Fatherland--if not necessarily to the status quo.
"Regina" is good enough to make me regret that what we are given is a mere space filler for the lesser "Stradella." If the aristocratic von Flotow dabbled in the French tradition, the lower middle-class Lortzing was very much a German professional. The man knew how to write for an orchestra and he was in the direct line of German operatic development originating with Weber. The singers are not known to me but they range from good to very good. The tenor, Stracke, offers a fine example of the German lyric tenor style, and would have been a far happier choice for the part of Stradella--if we could ignore the twenty-six year gap between the performances.
Very good but largely unknown opera
D. R. Schryer | Poquoson, VA United States | 10/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of my favorite operas is the exceptionally melodic -- and unjustly neglected -- opera Martha. Martha is on my personal top ten list, ahead of many operas which are far more famous but less beautiful. For years I have regreted than no other operas by Flotow, other than Martha, were available. Therefore, when I recently learned that Amazon offers another Flotow opera, Alessandro Stradella, I immediately ordered it. I haven't been disappointed. No, Alessandro Stradella isn't the masterpiece that Martha is, but then few operas are. But it is a very good opera which does not deserve its current obscurity. Lovers of Martha will recognize in Alessandro Stradella many of Martha's desirable characteristics, especially an abundance of beautiful melodies. If you know and love Martha, or simply are willing to try an unjustly obscure opera that is filled with melody, please try Alessandro Stradella. In my opinion, you will not be disappointed. Both the vocal and orchestral performances on this recording are quite good."