J. STRAUSS: Eine Nacht in Venedig
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J. STRAUSS: Eine Nacht in Venedig

spacer Bath, Habermann, Irosch; 
Baumgärtel, Clear, Heinrich, Singer; Seefestspiele Mörbisch, Bibl. 
Production: Lohner. ORF VLMD005, 126 mins., subtitled


Gondolas! Intrigue! Pasta! Did I mention gondolas? Because the lakeside setting of Austria’s Seefestspiele Mörbisch renders actual gondolas possible; ditto tiny canals spanned by bridges. In fact, Rolf Langenfass’s set for this delightful 1999 production of Johann Strauss II’s Nacht in Venedig adds a layer of verisimilitude that would be impossible in any other venue. Couple that with a company steeped in the Viennese operetta tradition, and this DVD is a winner. 

The operetta’s much-maligned libretto depicts a skein of romantic entanglements across the strata of Venetian society: the beautiful fisherwoman Annina loves the rakish Caramello, barber to the visiting Duke of Urbino; the Duke lusts after Barbara, wife of the ancient Senator Delacqua, but she has eyes only for Delacqua’s handsome nephew. With the dubious help of the pasta cook Pappacoda and his sometime sweetheart Ciboletta, predictable pairings and re-pairings ensue. What saves the piece, of course, is Strauss’s buoyant score, which, if it doesn’t quite rise to the giddy effervescence of Die Fledermaus, still supplies the requisite exuberance, especially in the choral scenes and small ensembles. The Act II finale, with its stilt-walkers and full set-change to Piazza San Marco, is a highlight, as is the gentle quintet “Der Mond hat schwere Klag’ erhoben,” notable for its stillness amid the frivolity. 

Ingrid Habermann possesses a bit too much innate dignity to be totally convincing as the earthy Annina, but her confident presence and clarion soprano anchor the production. She turns in an amusing drunk aria in Act II, blithely oblivious — as her character would be — to a noticeable wardrobe malfunction. Christine Bath is a sensuously feisty Ciboletta, perfectly matched to Markus Heinrich’s affably boisterous Pappacoda. Tenor Christian Baumgärtel brings a shining, flexible tenor and a dash of bad-boy charm to Caramello. (Extra points for singing while dancing a tarantella and punting a gondola.) As the Duke, Marc Clear makes an imposingly noble figure, although his acting is stronger in his nonsinging moments. There is fine character work from Gideon Singer as Delacqua, Mirjana Irosch as Agricola and Evelyn Schörkhuber as the comely Barbara. The festival orchestra under the direction of Rudolf Bibl rises and swells with authentic sweep, while the chorus sings with vigor. A throng of supernumeraries downs spaghetti by the handful, and the dancers execute their steps with the kind of abandon that makes them seem less like an imported ballet corps and more like real townspeople. spacer 


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