The Best One
Walter P. Sheppard | Arlington, VA United States | 09/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a reissue of the "Gala Performance" recording issued a couple decades ago on LP and subsequenly released on CD. It is undoubtedly the best recorded performance of this splendid operetta ever made. It includes more of the spoken dialogue than some like, but I think that preserves the shape and balance of the original, as well as providing some fun of its own, as in Frosch's struggle with the coffee maker at the beginning of Act III. This reissue retains the "Gala Sequence" of various singers doing a series of party pieces in the middle of the second act. (This is a tradition at many opera houses, especially in Europe on New Year's Eve, when real champagne is sometimes served onstage.) It is fun, but it is not something I want to hear every time I listen to the operetta. It can be skipped, of course, but it would have been better to have included it as an appendix. (In the original LP issue, it was on its own side and could be skipped easily.) Also, including it means that Strauss's original ballet music for Act II has had to be dropped from both CD issues because of timing limitations. (Harnoncourt includes it in his version, which doesn't really have anything else to recommend it.) I'd happily swap the "Gala" for the ballet, especially if the party pieces were in an appendix, even if I had to pay a little more. In any event, don't let my sour grapes about the "Gala" discourage you from adding this wonderful performance to your operetta shelf. It is superb!"
Probably the best recording of this most joyful of operettas
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 12/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Contrary to Mr Sheppard's review, I think that the gala performances alone are worth the price of this recording; where else can you hear such a concentration of talent from 1960?
Sutherland - superb in her finest, youthful voice; Bjorling, still patrician of tone only three months before his untimely death caused by a heart condition exacerbated by his drinking problem (though you'd never guess it from his singing); Del Monaco tearing a Neapolitan to tatters with his clarion voice; Nilsson blasting her way through "I could have danced all night" to a terrific climax; Leontyne Price's incongruous and beautiful performance of "Summertime" - plus that absurd duet by Simionato and Bastianini in execrable English (despite their compliments to each other on their linguistic abilities) - it's all great fun and wholly in the spirit of this joyous performance; don't take it too seriously or you'll miss the point.
Apart from all that, I agree with Mr Sheppard that this is a wonderful performance, though I still have an affection for the historic 1950 Clemens Krauss recording (also with the superb Hilde Gueden) and the earlier 1955 Karajan. The recording history of this piece has been blessed; you cannot go wrong with any of them. The cast of this one features a team of seasoned pros with lovely voices and the style engrained in their souls; the sheer vitality and joie de vivre of the music pulse through the whole performance - never mind Karajan's reputation for high seriousness; he really captures the fun of a great occasion."