on January 16, 2004
Written sometime after the great success of Die Fledermaus, this is the second most popular Viennese operetta from the pen of Johann Strauss Jr. By then at the height of his fame and during the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, he turned for new inspiration to Hungary, the kingdom of the magyars and gypsies, as it was conceived by the sophisticated Viennese society.He contacted in Budapest the enormously gifted and prolific Hungarian novelist, Mor Jokai , who turned out no less than 100 wonderfully imaginative romantic novels in the late 19th century,( in fact he could be compared to Alexandre Dumas had he been more widely translated). This cooperation resulted in this operetta, a spirited, tuneful and colorful work which became an instant favorite in both Austria and Hungary. The work is busting of terrific tunes, lovely arias, duets and ensemble pieces not to mention famous waltzes and marches, some of them are still world famous as excerpts.
This is probably the best recording available. Made in the late 50-s and out of the catalogue for a while, it is now back in, with updated digital sound. The principals are superlative: the great Elizabeth Schwatzkopf in the demanding and versatile soprano role of Saffi, the beautiful gypsy girl,
is brilliant.The young Nicolai Gedda is in top vocal form in the acrobatic tenor fireworks of Sandor
Barinkay, the gypsy baron. Erich Kunz, great Wagnerian light baritone is splendidly comic as Zsupan the pig -farmer. Hermann Prey comes on with resounding voice in the short part of Count Homonnay. Otto Ackermann conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra with vigour in true Viennese style that we are accustomed to love performed by Boskowsky,Kleiber, Karajan and others.
The 2 CD set comes in a handsome box with brochure which includes synopsis but no libretto,as is the habit these days, but the rather simplistic story can be followed quite easily. Very enjoyable, vintage performance, one of EMI Classics. Very recommendable.