ALBUM TITLE: Lehár
WORKS: Das Land des Lächeln
PERFORMER: Camilla Nylund, Julia Bauer, Piotr Beczala, Alexander Kaimbacher, Alfred Berg, Theodor Weimer; Bavarian Radio Chorus; Munich Radio Orchestra/Ulf Schirmer
CATALOGUE NO: CPO 777 303-2
Nothing that Lehár wrote after 1929 ever quite hit the spot like Das Land des Lächelns. Full of fashionable musical Chinoiserie, it’s a cousin of Turandot composed in the same decade. Yet what moved audiences in Berlin and above all Vienna was yet another richly upholstered operetta version of the Austro-Hungarian dilemma. This melancholy story of the Chinese Prince Sou-Chong who takes Lisa, an Austrian aristocrat’s daughter, back to China where they discover two cultures are too much for one has it all: young and girlish at the beginning of the aria, when loving Alfredo is a real possibility, there’s a hint of fragility, too, in her tone. And to remind us that Violetta is going to die, Evelino Pidò delicately emphasises the muffled bass chords down in the bottom of the orchestra. Then in ‘Sempre libera’ Dessay refuses us the mature woman we’re used to in this role, and is ever inch the party girl yearning for pleasure. Scales, trills, runs and octave leaps hold no terror for this Violetta and it’s all rounded off with the optional top B that leaves you gasping.The Mad Scenes from puritani and Lucia di Lammermoor are just as impressive. And who wouldn’t want to kidnap Dessay’s Gilda after hearing her ‘Caro nome’?