Amusing operetta parody of Wagner
Michael L Stephens | Richmond, CA United States | 09/27/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Oscar Straus, who is remembered mainly for his operettas "The Chocolate Soldier" and "A Waltz Dream," wrote this little gem in 1906 to poke fun at the Wagner craze and its pernicious effect on German culture. After only a few performances, it was shut down by the violent demonstrations of nationalists who were outraged by its irreverent satire on the God of German music. It was completely forgotten until this enterprising revival in the mid 1990s.Die Lustigen Nibelungen (The Merry Nibelungs) turns the plot of Gotterdaemmerung on its head by making Siegfried, Brunhilde, Hagen and the Gibichings into absurd figures of fun who indulge in silly mock-heroics, suffer pratfalls and plot murder which turns into foolish fiasco. Like much German humor, it can be a bit heavy-handed, but as Wagner lends himself easily to parody by the sheer seriousness with which he takes himself, the results are often amusing, and would have been even more so had the CD included an English translation of the libretto which, alas, it does not. As one example of Straus' wit, he has his Siegfried sing of his treasure as, "Das ist Rheingold, das ist mein Gold, das ist Nibelungen Gold." You need the music to fully appreciate just how amusing this is, though.And the music? Well, it's tuneful Viennese-style operetta, not Wagner, for the most part -- which of course adds to the silliness of the concept. But there are a few tracks which do ape the Wagnerian style, although that of Lohengrin or Tannhauser, not of the Ring. The team assembled for this production are mainly young German and American singers, but they are up to the task and add much to one's enjoyment of this unique experience.As an added bonus, the booklet features several photographs from the 1906 premiere -- and they are absolutely hilarious!"