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Thread: Operetta on DVD and Blu-ray

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    Default Operetta on DVD and Blu-ray

    As suggested by Gaston, I'll be starting a thread for operettas, except those of Offenbach who has his own thread.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Default J. Strauss II: Die Fledermaus on blu-ray

    Some will say that the music is always the same, with some party music orchestration ending up in some variation of a waltz, leading then to - guess what? A real waltz. And repeat. And so on and so forth.

    But I don't care. I loved it! It is wickedly funny. I laughed out loud several times. It is wildly satisfactory and no wonder it is so popular. Independently of the score (which I found pleasing enough) this operetta works very well as music theater, and provides a wonderful evening of delicious entertainment.

    The version I saw was the latest Glyndebourne version on blu-ray released by Opus Arte, with Pamela Anderson, Thomas Allen, Hkan Hagegrd, and Artur Korn.



    This version has excellent sound and image, very talented singers who can act, and it is well directed.

    The only downside of this version is that there was some rewriting of the dialogue to make it more modern, and some purists will have a problem with that (I didn't).

    Everything else was gorgeous.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    There is a 1993 Die Fledermaus segment here where Dessay sings Voices of the Spring. Turn on the commentary and Natalie tells you she had only a couple days to prepare and had never sang this before so she had to check the prompter while singing

    [YT]http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=CZWLPPO0KL4[/YT]


    Also if you get the 1987 Karajan Vienna New Years DVD you will see another stunning performance of Voices of the Spring by Kathleen Battle

    [YT]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0sjS92tkNI&feature=player_detailpage[/YT]

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    Default Bernstein: Candide on DVD

    This work is classified as operetta, and the version I'm seeing was filmed live at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall, with the NY Philharmonic on stage, and the singers/actors in costumes, walking around the musicians, acting, singing, dancing. The chorus also participates with various pantomimes. There are some props (like chairs, a statue, other objects, swords).

    Descriptions mention a concert version, but with these elements above, I'd rather call it semi-staged. The only element missing as compared to a fully staged version is the scenery - and sometimes, the chorus members show handheld panels that provide some minimal scenery.

    Technically speaking, this DVD has some ups and downs: good image in widescreen format, three sound tracks, but no subtitles (not a problem for English speakers since this work is spoken and sung in clear English), and no bonus features.



    The chorus is the Westminster Symphonic Cour (they're pretty good). The narrator is Thomas Allan who is great.

    Singers are both from the operatic world (like Paul Groves and Stanford Olsen) and from Broadway (like Patty LuPone and Kristin Chenoweth).

    As logically expected, this hybrid group of singers deliver uneven singing, often not at the standard those who love opera and don't like musicals (like me) would prefer.

    However, it is a very successful production in my opinion, thanks to energetic acting, good casting with people who look their parts (some are good-looking too), creative solutions for the semi-staging, great comic flair, and the quality of the work itself, which is quite funny and musically pleasant.

    Recommended.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Mar-07-2011 at 05:21.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Default Manuel Fernandez Caballero: El duo de La Africana on DVD

    OK, I suppose I'll post this here because it is a very similar genre to operetta in terms of structure: zarzuela.



    This is enjoyable, but with a major, major flaw: just like other reviewers on Amazon.com and Netflix, I couldn't get the subtitles to work. They are listed as existing in English and Spanish, there is an entry for subtitles on the menu, but you can't get to them. There is a lot of spoken dialogue and those parts I can understand fairly well, but it is harder to understand the lyrics of the songs, and I was unable to find a libretto online.

    It's a satirical work - an opera company rehearsing Meyerbeer's L'Africaine in its Italian version, with a love triangle. There are musical numbers recovered from L'Africaine, and a parody of La donna è mobile. Donizetti's À mes amis... pour mon âme also makes an appearance (the tenor, let's put it this way to quote a recent discussion, is better than Bocelli, but worse than Pavarotti... hehehe).The plot is fairly simple - the producer of the opera - who is Italian and speaks Italiañol (a mix of Spanish and Italian, hilarious) - is only interested in money and wants to run the company on the cheap. Then, he enlists his soprano wife for the title role so that he won't need to pay a soprano. However he gets jealous of the handsome and flirtatious tenor, with the usual comedic situations that this triangle warrants - and they are fairly funny. There are auditions, which bring the opportunity for some interesting numbers.

    The cast, completely unknown to me, is made of artists who are supposedly famous in Spain, and they do seem quite competent in acting, but the singing is often painful. The music is pleasant, but rare - it looks like at least this particular zarzuela (it's only the second one that I watch) has a lot more spoken dialogue than musical numbers.

    Given that this work is parody about the rehearsal of an Italian version of a French opera, many of these musical numbers are not very Spanish in flavor, unlike the other zarzuela that I know (Luisa Fernanda). The music acquires a more distinctly Spanish accent in the choral numbers which are very easy on the ear. The chorus members are generally young and good-looking, and the costumes are not bad.

    This staging comes from the Teatro Real de Madrid. Stage lighting is very deficient (or else it is the fault of the video technology); it's a very dark image, with no depth (fuzzy background), full-screen format. It doesn't make that much of a difference because the scenarios are very sparse and minimalistic. Sound balance is not good - the singers are too loud, the orchestra too soft.

    I suppose that this work is too local to be recommended. There are probably some inside jokes, since even when I could understand the Spanish, I wouldn't get some of the jokes. There is a certain lack of unity as well, with this mix of Italianate, French, and Spanish melodies. In addition to the above, the absence of subtitles and the poor technical quality of this DVD are more reasons to withdraw my recommendation. Still, I did enjoy it overall, sort of.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Mar-10-2011 at 01:39.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Default Chabrier: L'Etoile on DVD

    OK, this is not technically operetta, but for all practical purposes, it is. The sub-genre classification of this work is opéra bouffe, the French variety of light comical opera with spoken dialogue instead of recitative, which in my opinion makes it a lot more like operettas than any other category. As a matter of fact, this work in terms of musical feel sounds a lot like a mix of Gilbert & Sullivan with Offenbach.



    This is conducted by none less than Sir John Gardiner with the orchestra of the Opéra de Lyon, with an entirely French local cast of completely unknown singers (I won't even bother listing them). It is a "studio" recording, since it was done with closed doors, no public. It seems like the recording itself was done in more than one session, since - and this is one of the downsides of this DVD - the sound balance is poor and the spoken parts are a lot louder than the singing, and have a distinctive sound quality that makes me feel that they recorded it later with microphones very close to the singers' mouths, and added these parts to the sound track (and did not do a very good job, since there are not only balance problems, but also lip sync problems).

    Technically the DVD is very poor as well, because not only there is the sound issue described above (at least hearing the good orchestra is no problem), but the 1.33:1 image is kind of blurry, with fading colors, and there is no menu whatsoever - the opera just starts playing, in French with English subtitles that can't be turned off. No extras.

    That's where the bad parts end. The work itself is delightful, funny, very enjoyable, melodious, and the singers/actors are young, good looking, enthusiastic, and do a general good job all around, with no weak links, and several fabulous moments.

    This work has a sort of fluid natural feel, the melodies match well the libretto, the orchestration is lively and agreeable. OK, let me make it clear, don't go in expecting musical fireworks... at times the music sounds like cartoon music, and at other times the work feels like a light musical rather than opera. The arias are nice but aren't show stoppers. But for what it tries to accomplish, and as far as operettas go, it's very entertaining, of the kind you watch with a constant smile on your face.

    In spite of bad quality of the DVD, because of the enthusiastic and competent performance by these good-looking young people added to the pleasant nature of the work, I'll rate this one a full "highly recommended."
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Chabrier: Une Education Manquée on DVD

    I think Herkku has already reviewed this one, but I can't find it in French Romantic or Operetta.

    It is an operetta, anyway, so I'll place my review here.



    This is from Compiègne, the company that while under the direction of Pierre Jourdan used to specialize in obscure French opera.

    The plot is very simple, for this one act operetta with a run time of 47 minutes. Newly weds don't know anything about sex. The young man's tutor doesn't have a clue either. The young man complains to his tutor that his education is lacking. There is a thunderstorm, the young bride is frightened, the young groom hugs and kisses her to reassure her, nature takes its course. Curtain.

    Musically it is quite mediocre. Chabrier's L'Etoile is ten times better.

    Regarding the production, staging (just a bedroom, simple but effective) and acting are appropriate. The soprano (Mary Saint-Palais) is cute but her voice is terrible. The two male characters (Franck Cassard, Philippe Forucade) do a little better. It is hard to say if the orchestra (Sinfonietta de Picardie) is good or not since the score is not demanding and the sound balance is not good (see below). The conductor is equally unknown, a certain Michel Swierczewski.

    The technical quality of the DVD is primitive. 1.33:1 image with very good definition but fading colors. Sound has very poor balance, we can barely hear the orchestra at times. Obligatory English subtitles, not even original language (French) subtitles. No extras, no choice of sound track. Bare bones.

    Not recommended, unless one is really into this genre of French opérette.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Auber: Haydée ou Le Secret on DVD

    This is an opéra-comique with lots of spoken dialogue, therefore best suited for the Operetta thread.

    Here is the production I'm watching:

    Isabelle Philippe (Haydée); Bruno Comparetti (Lorédan Grimani); Paul Medioni (Malipieri); Anne Sophie Schmidt (Rafaela); Mathias Vidal (Andréa Donato); Stéphane Malbec-Garcia (Doménico); Michael Swiereczewski (conductor); Théâtre Impérial de Compiègne; Pierre Jourdan (artistic director); André Brasilier (scenery); Jean-Pierre Capeyron (costumes); Thierry Alexandre (lighting). Kultur Video D4244 (Region 1, NTSC, 137 min, 16:9 anamorphic), 2005.



    I don't always like Compiègne's attempts at reviving obscure French operas under the leadership of Pierre Jourdan. Sometimes I think that these operas are obscure and have been forgotten for a reason, and should better rest in peace. Maybe we modern men and women shoudn't disturb their well deserved deep sleep and stage them again.

    This is a clear exception. Haydée is a very pleasant and beautiful operetta, and this production entirely does it justice, with good staging, good singing, good acting (complete with a couple of good looking sopranos), good orchestra, decent sound and image.

    Recommended!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Kálmán: Die Csárdásfürstin (The Gypsy Princess) on DVD



    This is Kálmán's most famous work, A Csárdáskirálynő, here in German version which is the one that has been diffused around the world. It premiered in 1915 in Vienna and became quite popular in Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Russia.

    This DG product is technically of good quality (except for sound balance): it's an old film from 1972 in 1.33:1 format but the definition and colors are sharp, and the sound track offers the options of PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1. The operetta is sung/spoken in German, with German, English, and Chinese subtitles. The only extras are a trailer of Anna Netrebko's Salzburg Traviata, and of the M22 Operas, plus a slide show of DG's catalogue.

    This is filmed on location in Budapest so there is no staging per se. The locations however are beautiful and costumes are ravishing and period-appropriate. Film director is Miklós Szmetár.

    The orchestra (unknown to me) is the Symphonie Orchester Kurt Graunke, conducted by Bert Grund. It's hard to say how well they do, since the sound balance is rather poor: we can listen to the singers very loudly and clearly, but the sounds coming from the orchestra are a distant background accompaniment.

    Casting includes the phenomenal, stunning-looking Anna Moffo as the cabaret singer Silva Varescu, the title role. Dagmar Koller is her rival Stasi. Rene Kollo is her love interest, the young count Edwin.

    The plot explores the usual rich boy/poor girl device: rich count Edwin loves poor cabaret girl Silva but his family wants to marry him to rich woman Countess Stasi. Young count obeys his mother and dumps cabaret girl, goes back to his estate to marry Stasi. Silva enrolls mutual friend (young noble Boni) to pretend he has married her (so that now she is supposed to be an aristocrat as well) and attends a ball under a false name. Edwin re-falls in love with her, while Boni falls in love with Stasi. After the usual mistaken identity mishaps, it becomes clear that Silva is still a cabaret girl, but surprisingly, at the end of the operetta it becomes known that Edwin's mother was also a former cabaret singer who entered high-society by marriage, unmasking her hypocrisy in trying to prevent her son from marrying Silva. Edwin's father, knowing that his son is doing exactly what he did himself, doesn't oppose the marriage. Then all ends well, and the two happy couples - Edwin/Silva, and Boni/Stasi, plus Edwin's mother, all board a ship to America where Silva will have a singing tour. Curtain.

    First of all, let me express my admiration for Anna Moffo's incredible physical form in this movie. Oh my God, those legs!!! She looks absolutely yummy in her skimpy burlesque outfits (the one on the cover image is the least revealing; there's better). I guess that being a soprano and having as first name Anna bodes well for the sex appeal of these ladies, given a certain Russian soprano who shares the same first name.

    Acting: so, so. They use lip-syncing, at times a little off, and while Anna does great, others are not as skillful as actors - nothing horrible, but not top notch acting either. Many of the female minor roles are given to good looking young women; this production has lots of eye candy.

    Singing: Pretty good but not great. Even Anna Moffo doesn't do as well as I expected, and Rene Kollo seems wasted in this light material. Koller actually seems to do better than both although she doesn't have too many arias.

    About the operetta: if this is all that there is and they didn't make changes or cuts (I have never seen or heard other versions), it does feel more like a movie (or if staged this same way, a stage play with music) than an operetta. The spoken dialogues are loooooong and the arias are short and rare. This said, the arias are very pleasant and enticing, I'd just love to have more music. Given the limitations of the genre, I find it rather good. It isn't as brilliant as the operettas of J. Strauss II or Lehár, but good nevertheless.

    Besides, there is no way I wouldn't recommend this DVD with such a sexy and dazzling Anna Moffo stealing the show with her killer legs and good looks. In musical terms it's rather light, but with some nice numbers, Eastern European-flavored, a couple of them well known. Overall, an enjoyable DVD.
    Last edited by Almaviva; May-26-2011 at 01:34.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Merry Widow - Lehar

    Watched this recently, purchased mainly because it is a newer version in HD but I suspect it is the version to beat among all comers.

    The chemistry between the Merry Widow Hana (a real beauty here) and count Danilo is so important and the two leads play the "hard to get not interested" but "I really secretly love you, am too proud to admit it" roles to perfection.....

    I had to play the "Vilja" song over many times, what a jewel perhaps the most beautiful song in all of operetta, wonderfully performed here. The action and story momentum builds and builds to the climatic Maxim's Paris club "can can" dance sequences exploding with vitality and energy, this won me over in many ways I love it .

    Everyone got swept away in the fun, conductor Welser Most takes the stage in a pink boa to sing and dance in a chorus line curtain call, priceless stuff! Every opera lover needs a Die Fledermaus and Merry Widow.........

    To get Almas attention, the widow here is buxom Dagmar Schellenberger

    Last edited by DarkAngel; May-30-2011 at 18:09.

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Battle has the technically pure Vilja (see Battle above with Voice of Spring video)

    Schwarzkopf has the authentic Vienese mannerisms and lilting style that come natural to her, Danube flows within her, velvet ice that melts you away......

    I any respect just a beautiful creation about love and longing for one's homeland, makes Merry Widow so memorable
    Last edited by DarkAngel; May-30-2011 at 14:31.

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    Default Johann Strauss II: Simplicius on DVD



    This is an operetta in three acts, but it is more serious than most, with its very convoluted plot and its references to the horrors of war.

    This Kultur product preserves a performance in 2000 by the Zurich Opera House, with its orchestra conducted by Franz Welser-Möst. This is a revival after 113 years of ostracism for this work that premiered in December of 1887. The libretto in German is by Victor Léon, based on a famous 17th century novel by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelhausen called Der Abenteuerliche Simplicissimus. It tells the convoluted story of a naïve young man, raised by his hermit father away from civilization, who is suddenly brought into contact with the world right in the middle of the Thirty Years' War when he is forced to become a soldier. There is a matter of a family fortune that is up for grabs, false identities, shifting love stories, and it all wraps up with a happy end.

    The cast is the following:

    Simplicius: Martin Zysset (tenor)
    His father, the hermit/Baron Wendellin von Grübben: Michael Volle (baritone)
    His brother Arnim: Piotr Beczala (tenor)
    General von Vliessen: Rolf Haustein (baritone)
    His daughter Hildegarde: Elizabeth Magnuson (soprano)
    The astrologer Melchior, a con artist: Oliver Widmer (baritone)
    Schnappslotte (Booze Lotte), owner of a traveling canteen: Louise Martini (soprano)
    Her daughter Tilly: Martina Janková (soprano) - very cute and with beautiful cleavage
    Ebba, a Swedish spy: Liliana Nikiteanu (mezzo-soprano) - very cute

    Stage direction: David Pountney
    Scenarios (several reviews mention that it is evocative of Hieronymus Bosch's paintings): Johann Engels

    Image is 1.78:1 with good definition and color. Sound track is provided exclusively on Dolby 5.1, and has good quality. Subtitles are optional but are only in English. Running time is 132 minutes. No extras. A synopsis, however, is projected on the screen as part of the lengthy but visually interesting opening credits, and at the start of each act, which is helpful because this is a darn complicated plot.

    Very good start. Beautiful overture, and gorgeous opening baritone aria - a lot more operatic than one would expect in an operetta, both in musical terms and in terms of content (a gloomy aria in which the hermit reveals that he gave up on his life in society because of trying to atone for the guilt from having killed his own brother - definitely not operetta kind of material - it's unusual to have death as part of an operetta plot - this is looking a lot like a kind of hybrid work that spans the frontier between these two genres). It is beautifully sung by Michael Volle.

    What follows is more akin to operetta, with the appearance of the astrologer who is much more buffo than the tortured Baron, together with his bombshell companion Ebba.

    Singing *and* acting are very good so far.

    Subtitles are very intrusive, big, bright, and on top of important parts of the image.

    Then we have a waltz for Simplicius' first aria - the lyrics talk about his fear of soldiers he's seen in the forest - strange discordance between the frightful lyrics and the happy waltz music.

    This is looking like J. Strauss II wanted to compose an opera instead of an operetta... but he didn't know how to refrain from using waltz and uplifting melodies... very odd work...

    Oh wow, the arrival of the soldiers is a *very* interesting scene from a staging perspective. This is a very creative and resourceful staging.

    We're talking about prayers in another thread - there are two prayers already here, by mid-First Act.

    2nd act - the hybrid feel continues - an operatic, dense chorus, followed by a true operetta-kind of aria and it all turns light and comic when Tilly and Arnim make their entrances - excellent singing by both.

    Then Hildegarde comes up - more beautiful singing. I do like this work!

    3rd act - more comic, lighter, with good music, and a delightful scene between the pretty, sexy, and excellent singer Martina Janková and Martin Zysset, when Tilly is trying to teach Simplicius how to kiss her (which he doesn't - runs scared). Zysset is less good a tenor than Beczala who plays his brother Arnim. The very interesting staging continues - with a tree of hung men and a chorus of Swedish prisoners who look a bit like zombies, and some figures that are indeed Bosch-like. Ebba which was a silent role during the first two acts, gets to sing and does it well - it's the Bing Bing aria.

    This is followed by a very beautiful - and again, operatic - ensemble, which merges into a waltz, the Little Lady of the Danube. Unfortunately this is somewhat marred by a troupe of dancers who aren't that good, and are given a chaotic, disorganized, and mediocre choreography - one of the only weak moments of this production.

    OK, now we're up to the happy ending, the two loving couples are reunited and allowed to marry, and there is a brief joyous waltz. Curtain.

    I can clearly say that this is highly recommended: a very interesting, enjoyable, and different work, well rendered by a competent and creative production (except for the terrible dancers) and a talented team of singers. Is it a masterpiece? Hardly. It's sort of confusing, theatrically weak, and the composer can't make his mind about composing an opera or an operetta. But somehow it all still works rather well, and it is very pleasant.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Jun-23-2011 at 02:31.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Strauss, Strauss, Strauss
    I can clearly say that this is highly recommended: a very interesting, enjoyable, and different work, well rendered by a competent and creative production (except for the terrible dancers) and a talented team of singers. Is it a masterpiece? Hardly. It's sort of confusing, theatrically weak, and the composer can't make his mind about composing an opera or an operetta. But somehow it all still works rather well, and it is very pleasant.
    That is one of the reasons why most of Strauss' operettas haven't lasted in the repertoire. His music often didn't fit the plot, thereby creating the bizarre juxtapositions you talked about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post


    Merry Widow - Lehar

    Watched this recently, purchased mainly because it is a newer version in HD but I suspect it is the version to beat among all comers.

    The chemistry between the Merry Widow Hana (a real beauty here) and count Danilo is so important and the two leads play the "hard to get not interested" but "I really secretly love you, am too proud to admit it" roles to perfection.....

    I had to play the "Vilja" song over many times, what a jewel perhaps the most beautiful song in all of operetta, wonderfully performed here. The action and story momentum builds and builds to the climatic Maxim's Paris club "can can" dance sequences exploding with vitality and energy, this won me over in many ways I love it .

    Everyone got swept away in the fun, conductor Welser Most takes the stage in a pink boa to sing and dance in a chorus line curtain call, priceless stuff! Every opera lover needs a Die Fledermaus and Merry Widow.........
    I'm not much of a fan of operetta but this was lots of fun and I loved it. Highly recommended.

    Just got to add that Rodney Gilfry was film star handsome in this.
    Natalie

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aksel View Post
    That is one of the reasons why most of Strauss' operettas haven't lasted in the repertoire. His music often didn't fit the plot, thereby creating the bizarre juxtapositions you talked about.
    I'm not arguing the fact that most of his operettas haven't lasted (as have most of Mozart's operas, for example, so that's nothing to be embarrassed about), but this doesn't seem a very valid reason. No one expects the music to fit the plot in an operetta. Rather, the plot is an excuse to place some music (similar to, say, a certain type of movies).

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