J Strauss II; Die Göttin der Vernunft

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Die Göttin der Vernunft
PERFORMER: Veronika Groiss, Manfred Equiluz, Kirlianit Cortez, Franz Födinger, Isabella Ma-Zach, Wolfgang Veith, Eva-Maria Kumpfmüller, Andreas Mittermeier; Slovak Sinfonietta, Zilina/Christian Pollack
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660280-81


Johann Strauss’s final operetta managed just 36 performances at the Theater an der Wien in 1897, thereafter languishing on the shelf until this live recording was made in Slovakia in 2009. The creation of the work was fraught. Having already signed a contract, Strauss became dismayed by the subject when he saw the complete scenario, which seems unlikely territory for Viennese light entertainment. The Goddess of Reason is set during the French Revolution, and involves an actress dressing up as the contemporary political replacement for conventional religion. Strauss was warned by one of his co-librettists not to try to extricate himself from his contract, and set the piece with little enthusiasm. He added an overture and other numbers for the 25th performance, but even so its run didn’t last long.

For this recording all the numbers – including the extra material – are played, and with some style under Viennese light-music specialist Christian Pollack, though his orchestra is rough and ready. The singing is variable, with Veronika Groiss’s Countess employing an attractive lyric soprano that is not always under control, and Franz Födinger’s Bonhomme knowing how to put over a comic song, though not invariably in tune. It’s acceptable, and gives a reasonable idea of the quality of the piece, which contains good things amid unmemorable sections; a deadpan trio for a group of comic Jacobins is rather brilliant. As well as the operetta itself, various dance selections drawn from it are included. George Hall