J Strauss II
Robert Davidson, Simeon Pilibosyan, Dorothe Ingenfeld, Annika Egert; Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus/Dario Salvi
Naxos 8.660489-90 124:13 mins (2 discs)
Johann Strauss II’s penultimate operetta opened at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna on 4 December 1895 and ran for a respectable 88 performances. There were quite a few follow-up productions throughout central and eastern Europe, and even one in New York, though the piece has not maintained a place in the repertoire.
The title refers to a fragrant herb found in forests which can be distilled into a drink whose effects are supposedly enlivening – a kind of rural equivalent of the champagne in Die Fledermaus. The plot contains the usual operetta quota of disguises, misunderstandings and the inevitable happy end. While not one of Strauss’s A-List operettas, musically Waldmeister is a skilfully written, often attractive piece, with impeccable orchestration and melodies from the impressive pot-pourri overture onwards that represent the composer near his best. The action opens with some effective storm music; other good things include the statutory waltzes, while this is surely the only operetta to include a Lawn Tennis chorus. The recording includes copious dialogue.
All the roles are adequately done, from the romantic leads to the comic roles, and all the cast shows an understanding of the musical territory and operetta stereotype they are aiming at. The piece itself doesn’t build up much of a head of steam, yet there’s a good standard of playing from the orchestra, and some style in the lilt of the rhythms, though Dario Salvi’s laidback conducting doesn’t help. The sound is a tad enclosed.