Leo Fall: Madame Pompadour / Schuller, Dasch, Zednik, Soukop, Pfeifer, Volksoper Wien

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FALL Madame Pompadour Andreas Schüller, cond; Annette Dasch ( Madame Pompadour ); Heinz Zednik ( King ); Mirko Roschkowski ( Count René d’Estrades ); Elvira Soukop ( Madeleine ); Beate Ritter ( Belotte ); Boris Pfeifer ( Joseph Calicot ); Gerhard Ernst ( Maurepas ); Vienna Volksoper Ch & O CPO 777795-2 (77:24) Live: Vienna 6/8/2012

What a delightful operetta this is! Bouncy, tuneful, witty, and extremely well written (as coincidence would have it, I followed Weinberger’s awful Schwanda the Bagpiper with this recording), it is one of those quintessential Viennese operettas that thrilled the masses in the last days of such entertainments, just before the Nazis and other fun hate groups descended like a cloud of doom on Austro-German culture and politics. It was a star vehicle for the popular and charismatic Fritzi Massary, Western Europe’s Queen of Operetta from the mid-1910s through the 1920s. Like so many such operettas, it is as much about nuance and charm of delivery as it is about voice, and in this respect Annette Dasch, in the title role, is lacking in both vocal control and charm. Oh, yes, she sings with energy and a certain amount of humor, but both her voice and the humor sound forced, particularly the former, which flutters wildly out of control on every sustained note.

As luck would have it, you can hear Massary’s own recording of the first-act aria “Heut’ könnt einer sein Gluck bei mir machen” on YouTube, and there is an almost seismic canyon in both voice and style (but mostly voice) between her and Dasch. Whereas the latter is fruity, with an overripe vibrato, and a certain amount of energy but no wit, Massary is all sparkle and charm. She makes you smile even though you don’t understand a word of what she’s singing.

But the rest of the cast, particularly Roschkowski and Zednik (who must surely be the German equivalent of Angelo Bada—he’s been singing for at least 40 years now), are simply splendid and hold up their end of the operetta splendidly. Thus there is enough sparkle here to compensate for Dasch’s problems, but since she is the character around which everything revolves, you wish that she had a better voice and style. A pity, really, because if the soprano on this performance had been as good as Cornelia Zink in the recent DVD of Carl Millöcker’s Der Bettelstudent, this would have been a fabulous performance and possibly a reference recording. As it is, it’s quite good but disturbs the ear every time Dasch opens up, particularly in the high range where she also goes a bit flat as well as tight and fluttery. Recommended, then, with that reservation.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 777795-2

  • UPC: 761203779529

  • Label: CPO

  • Composer: Leo Fall

  • Conductor: Andreas Schüller

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Vienna Volksoper Orchestra

  • Performer: Annette Dasch, Beate Ritter, Boris Pfeifer, Elvira Soukop, Heinz Zednik