Lehar: Die lustige Witwe

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Lehar
LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Die lustige Witwe
PERFORMER: Pamela Coburn, Michael Heliau, Karl Fäth, Katharina Richter; Cologne Radio Orchestra/Helmuth Froschauer
CATALOGUE NO: 60 077-2
Ninety years of productions all over the world, in a variety of languages and as often as not performed by untalented amateurs, have failed to dim the brilliance of Lehár’s The Merry Widow, a masterpiece which revitalised the genre of Viennese operetta. Its score is brilliantly written for the orchestra and the voices, and covers an incredibly wide range of feeling. The Camille-Valencienne duet in Act II has an undercurrent of eroticism that makes it Lehár’s equivalent of the Tristan und Isolde love duet.

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The cast of this new recording is not noticably Viennese in temperament. The Danilo, Michel Heltau, is more actor than singer, and lacks charisma. As Camille and Valencienne, Juan José Lopera and Katharina Richter are adequate, but Karl Fäth makes little of the comic bass role of Baron Zeta. Although he is Viennese, Helmuth Froschauer conducts somewhat heavily. Pamela Coburn sings prettily enough in the title-role, but hers is hardly a memorable performance. The finest Lüstige Witwe on disc by far is EMI’s old recording with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Nicolai Gedda in the leading roles, a superb supporting cast, and the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted magically by Lovro von Matacic. It still sounds fresh, and has a wonderful sense of atmosphere. Charles Osborne