Wir Gratuliren! (Congratulations!)
Katia Guedes, Anna Gutter, Olivia Saragosa, Jeff Martin, Robert Elibay-Hartog; Potsdam Chamber Academy/Vladimir Stoupel
Oehms OC990 80:23 mins
Mieczysław Weinberg’s Mazel Tov!, composed in 1975 and premiered eight years later at the Moscow Chamber Opera, occupies a unique position among the composer’s stage works since it explores a specifically Jewish theme. Based on a comedy by the Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem (best-known for writing the story Tevye the Milkman which inspired the hugely successful musical Fiddler on the Roof), it tells the story of a travelling bookseller and a male lackey attempting to woo two downtrodden domestic female servants that are working in an upper-class and socially repressive Jewish household at the turn of the 19th century.
The opera is featured here in its German translation with the title Wir Gratulieren! in a highly effective arrangement by Henry Koch for reduced instrumental forces that seems admirably suited to Weinberg’s wiry score with its witty as well as poignant allusions to Jewish song and dance idioms. Recorded live at the Berlin Konzerthaus in September 2012, this recording has considerable dramatic presence with all the protagonists delivering characterful portrayals of their respective roles and Vladimir Stoupel securing incisive playing from the Kammerakademie Potsdam.
The 60-page booklet offers a useful synopsis of the background to the work and an outline of the plot, as well as a complete transcription of the libretto in German. Non-German speakers however will feel a bit short-changed that Oehms have not provided an English translation of the text, particularly since much of the dialogue moves at quite a pace. I also wonder whether the 80-minute duration of the piece could have been accommodated onto one CD, thereby maintaining greater continuity between the two acts of the opera.