OPERA NEWS - Polnische Hochzeit
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BEER: Polnische Hochzeit

CD Button Bernhard, Rüping; Schukoff, Hausmann, Kupfer-Radecky. Chor des Staatstheaters am Gärtnerplatz, Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Schirmer. No texts or translations. CPO 555 059-2 (2)

Recordings Polnische Hochzeit Cover 517
Critics Choice Button 1015 

AUSTRIAN–JEWISH COMPOSER Joseph Beer’s operetta Polnische Hochzeit (Polish Wedding) received an auspicious premiere in Zurich in 1937 when the young composer was twenty-eight. Although it was translated into eight languages and produced all over Europe, its most prestigious engagement, at Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet, was scotched by the outbreak of the war. Beer used his connections at the theatre to escape Austria, but his delicious operetta languished in obscurity, until the Viennese publisher Doblinger catalogued it in 2012. The plot concerns Boleslav and Jadja, childhood sweethearts reunited when Boleslav returns to Russian-occupied Poland after exile for rebel activities. However, Jadja’s father Baron Oginsky has arranged a marriage for her with Boleslav’s uncle, the wealthy but debauched Staschek, and it’s left to Jadja’s resourceful maid Suza (an obvious descendant of Le Nozze di Figaro’s Susanna) to sort things out. 

CPO has recorded a number of forgotten operettas, but this one is a real find. Beer’s buoyant melodies and saucy orchestrations, which include a noticeable amount of Gottschalk-like featured piano, inject a cosmopolitan, New World sensibility into the Viennese operetta tradition. He also demonstrates keen showmanship with “Katzenaugen,” a rollicking ragtime two-step designed to bring down the house, as well as “Muss Man denn” a jazzy shuffle that could credibly have crossed the Atlantic from the Broadway stage. 

The performances are strong, top to bottom. As Boleslav, Nikolai Schukoff’s robust tenor is in fine form, with an attractive combination of romance and gravitas. He is especially beguiling in “Du bist meine grosse Liebe,” a gentle, worldly ballad that recalls Noel Coward. Martina Rüping offers a supple, warm soprano as Jadja. Their first act duet “Schenk mir das Himmelreich” gets off to a voluptuous start, although they both overshoot slightly at the end. They’re more comfortable in the Act II “Herz on Herz.” Suza is a spikier character than her Mozartean counterpart—closer to Figaro in brashness—and is here given an authoritative, no-nonsense performance by soprano Suzanne Bernhard. Baritone Mathias Hausmann matches her as a hearty Casimir, her partner in the two aforementioned song and dance numbers. Baritone Michael Kupfer-Radecky makes a fearsome Staschek, singing each line as if he’s ripping meat off a giant turkey leg. There are dialogue tracks but no libretto, only a plot summary, which makes following along on the detail level a little tricky for non-fluent German speakers. But it’s so enjoyable on a purely musical level that it almost doesn’t matter.  —Joanne Sydney Lessner 

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