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Angela Denoke, Ana Maria Labin and Piotr Beczala: "Live Aus Der Semperoper: The Lehár Gala from Dresden"

spacer Works by Lehár, O. Straus, J. Strauss. Staatskapelle Dresden, Thielemann. Deutsche Grammophon B0016485-09 (DVD) or B0016484-02 (CD), 94 mins., subtitled

DresdenGalaDVD

This edition of the year-end gala from the Semperoper in Dresden is far more entertaining than last year's condensation of The Merry Widow — a work that, although lovely, is a mite over-familiar. Again sticking with Lehár, Christian Thielemann's program for New Year's Eve 2011 gives rapturous examples from Paganini (the lion's share of the excerpts), Das Land des Lächelns, Der Zarewitsch, Giuditta, Friederike and other Lehár oddities, including an echt-ungarisch march from Zigeunerliebe.

The Paganini excerpts, from one of Lehár's most luscious scores, positively float in the Semperoper, as sung by the soloists. Piotr Beczala charms the pants off "Gern hab ich die Frau'n geküsst," and Beczala and Angela Denoke triumph in the duet "Niemand liebt dich so wie ich." Ana Maria Labin does a luxurious job with Eva's "Wär es auch nichts als ein Augenblick," and Beczala and Denoke again work wonders with a duet from Der Zarewitsch.

For once, the ballet interlude has considerable charm. A little girl in the last row goes out into the foyer to dance with seasoned professionals, to the tune of Lehár's "Wilde Rosen" — a lovely concept, and adorably executed.

The encores are terrific — Beczala with the obligatory "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz," Labin with a wondrous "Ich bin verliebt," and then Denoke surprises everyone with a rendition of Oscar Straus's "Warum soll eine Frau kein Verhältnis haben?" (Why shouldn't a woman have an affair?), from Eine Frau, Die Weiss Was Sie Will (A Woman Who Knows What She Wants), one of the last examples of pre-Hitler Berlin entertainments, written originally for Fritzi Massary. The last encore, a reprise of the waltz "An der Elbe" — which of course refers to the river that flows through Dresden — is becoming a staple for the Semperoper, and why not?

One hopes that Herr Thielemann sticks with this excerpt program, which is far more engaging than last year's format. He conducts with typical panache and scrupulousness, making every note of Lehár sound rhapsodic. spacer 

RICHARD TRAUBNER

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Current Issue: April 2014 — VOL. 78, NO. 10