Ball at the Savoy
Alison Kelly, Gerald Frantzen, Ryan Trent Oldham, Cynthia Fortune Gruel, Rose Guccione, Bridget Skaggs, Matt Dyson, Kurt Bender, Shawn Morgenlander, Gillian Hollis, Gretchen Adams; Folks Operetta/Anthony Barrese
Naxos 8.660503-04 139:15 mins (2 discs)
Since 2006, the Chicago-based Folks Operetta has been reconstructing and producing works from the Viennese and German traditions, recently making a specialty of Jewish composers and librettists who either perished or were forced into exile during the Third Reich.
One example is the Jewish-Hungarian Paul Abrahám (1892-1960), whose successful career was brought to an end when he was forced to leave first Germany, then Austria, then Hungary, surviving only due to his move to the United States, where he suffered – not surprisingly – from serious mental health issues before returning to Germany in 1956.
Ball at the Savoy (1932) was his final operetta to premiere in Berlin, just before the Nazis came to power; its initially successful run ended shortly afterwards. This is a worthwhile revival of a rewarding work also successfully brought to the Komische Oper stage by director Barrie Kosky (no recording, unfortunately) in 2013.
The score contains more than its fair share of melody, dressed up in a variety of styles and tempos, with the clear influence of contemporary American dance music plus some Spanish rhythms alongside the more traditional waltzes: the comic role of Mustafa Bey is involved in a couple of mock-Turkish numbers.
What we hear is a reduction of the original orchestration for a pit band of 18 players, who occasionally sound a little rough but who are invariably lively. Much the same could be said of the cast. All nevertheless give good value in both dialogue (a new English version) and the score itself, while conductor Anthony Barrese brings lilt and lift to his task.