Korngold: Die stumme Serenade

LABELS: Die stumme Serenade
WORKS: Die stumme Serenade
PERFORMER: Sarah Wegener, Birger Radde, Frank Buchwald, Werner Klockow, Anna-Lucia Leone, Sebastian Reich, Young Opera Company, Holst Sinfonietta, Klaus Simon


Hollywood meets Vienna in the first modern recording of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s last stage work, Die stumme Serenade (The Silent Serenade). Hats off to the CPO label for adding it to its already impressive Korngold collection.

Written in the mid-to-late 1940s when Korngold was in exile in Los Angeles, this is a wonderfully silly operetta: cross Lehár with Gilbert and Sullivan and the Marx Brothers. Korngold had his eye on Broadway, or on a piece for his return to Europe.

The story is nuts. Silvia, an actress in 1820s Naples, is disturbed by a strange man in the night. He is Andrea, her dressmaker, and claims to have sung her ‘a silent serenade’.By the end, he has escaped a death sentence and been made prime minister, and the pair are madly in love. The tale involves an idiotic police master, Caretto, a lighter second couple, Sam and Louise, and some fabulous tunes. It was behind its times by a quarter century, but remains heartwarming and inspired nonetheless. Korngold’s orchestration for small ensemble shows extraordinary lightness of touch. Highlights include a foxtrot ‘Louise’, Richard Tauber-style arias for Andrea, and a delicious love duet.

Sarah Wegener is a pert, soulful Silvia, partnered by the warm-toned Birger Radde as Andrea, while the Holst Sinfonietta sparkles like a Viennese Christmas tree. Be warned: there’s no English translation, despite lengthy swathes of German dialogue.


Jessica Duchen