LABELS: RCA Classics
PERFORMER: Lucia Popp, Doris Soffel, Sigmund Nimsgern, Siegfried Jerusalem, Karl Ridderbusch; Bavarian Radio Chorus, Munich Radio Orchestra/Heinz Wallberg
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 32231 2 ADD Reissue
Friedrich von Flotow’s sentimental comedy Martha, once among the most popular operas on the international circuit, is no longer so well known outside Germany. Yet, the story of a bored noblewoman’s joke that goes too far in Queen Anne’s England is no more far-fetched than any Romantic fairytale, and what the libretto lacks in dramatic tension is abundantly countered by Flotow’s deliciously melodious score, in which he achieves a convincing degree of comedic and ardent characterisation. In fact, it’s best regarded not as a bluff Singspiel, but as a German opéra comique. To the Auber-like sparkle of the ‘Spinning Quartet’ and the market scene, Flotow applies a rich gloss of Romantic emotion in the ‘Good night’ quartet, in the adaptation of Moore’s ‘Last Rose of Summer’ (for local colour) and in the expansive ensemble, ‘Mag der Himmel euch vergeben’, adding the Weberian weight of horns, cello, clarinet and harp to achieve a serious tone.
Recorded in 1978, this is one of the finest accounts of the opera, vocally cast to perfection – a tribute to the late Lucia Popp, while Siegfried Jerusalem’s rendition of ‘Ach, so fromm’ challenges even Caruso’s Italian version (‘M’appari’). Wallberg conducts with eloquent flexibility and grace. The well-balanced studio sound has been cleanly and gently transferred to CD. Libretto in German only, with English-language synopsis. Barrymore Laurence Scherer