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ClassicsOnline Home » STRAUSS II, J.: Nacht in Venedig (Eine) (Schwarzkopf, Gedda) (1954)
Johann Strauss II’s Eine Nacht in Venedig, heard on this recording in a version prepared by Ernst Marischka and Erich Korngold for a 1923 Berlin revival, is modelled, like so many of his stage works, on Offenbach’s French operettas. When this recording appeared in 1955, The Gramophone critic wrote: “A Night in Venice (1883), with the canals running with schmaltz and many a German joke about macaroni and La donna being mobile, may put off the ultra austere, but I think you would have to be pretty stiff not to surrender… This set speaks for itself. Outside the world of the gramophone you would never expect to encounter an operetta with a cast like this one”. Otto Ackermann was an outstanding operetta conductor, capturing to perfection the elusive Viennese lilt and phrasing.
By Em Marshall
By David Denton
Great Operetta Recordings
Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)
Eine Nacht in Venedig (A Night in Venice)
Operetta in Three Acts
Libretto by F. Zell and Richard Genée
Edited by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Ernst Marischka
Guido, Duke of Urbino - Nicolai Gedda (tenor)
Caramello - Erich Kunz (baritone)
Delacqua - Karl Dönch (bass-baritone)
Pappacoda - Peter Klein (tenor)
Annina - Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Ciboletta - Emmy Loose (soprano)
Agricola / Barbara - Hanna Ludwig (contralto)
Barbaruccio - Karel Stepanek
Barbara - Hanna Norbert
Enrico - Anton Diffring
Agricola - Lea Seidl
Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus
Following the success of Offenbach's French operettas in German translations during the mid-nineteenth century, theatrical managers in both Berlin and Vienna sought to produce something similar for their own theatres. Franz von Suppé wrote the first important Viennese work in the genre, Das Pensionat, in 1860. It was a composer who was known purely for his dance music, however, who really brought the Viennese form to the fore: Johann Strauss the younger. It is remarkable that although he had no previous experience of writing music for the theatre he should be so successful. One reason was in his choice of librettist, Richard Genée, who was also an operetta composer and conductor. It was his theatrical experience allied to the music of Strauss that resulted in Die Fledermaus (1874). Their other collaborations included Das Spitzentuch der Königin (1880), Der lustige Krieg (1881) and Eine Nacht in Venedig (1883).
The three-act libretto for Eine Nacht in Venedig was written by F. Zell (Camillo Walzel) and Richard Genée, adapted from Château Trompette by Eugène Cormon and Michel Carré. Zell worked primarily on the dialogue and the action while Genée concerned himself with the song-texts. Following the divorce from his wife Lili, Strauss was keen to find a different theatre to give the première of his work, but arrangements proved difficult and on 1 May 1883 it was announced that the new work would be given in Berlin. Strauss worked throughout the summer writing his operetta. Nevertheless problems arose when the European press accused Zell and Genée of plagiarism. Eventually the Viennese writers admitted what they had done and offered a caveat with the words: "with free use of a French subject". The new operetta was eventually staged in Berlin at the Friedrich-Wilhelmstädtisches Theater on 3 October 1883. Both the libretto and music were damned by the Berlin press. Strauss returned to Vienna for the Viennese production six days later. Considerable rewritings of both text and music were hurriedly put into action. The Austrian production ran for 44 performances.
When preparing for a Berlin revival in 1923 the author Ernst Marischka and composer Erich Korngold made a series of revisions to both music and dialogue in an attempt to simplify some of the problems inherent in the original work. They re-ordered Strauss's original, made cuts and re-orchestrated the music in part. They also added a couple of numbers for the part of the Duke (sung by the immortal Richard Tauber) by taking music from Strauss's Simplicius and adapting one of Annina's songs. It is this 1923 version by which the operetta has become best known and that is used as the basis of this recording. In Korngold's version the baritone rôle of Pappacoda is given to a tenor. Here the part of Caramello is undertaken by a baritone, thereby necessitating the transposition of his part. There are other small changes too numerous to detail here.
The work has been filmed on a number occasions, beginning with a 1933 Hungarian version shot in the Hunna Studios in Budapest as Egy éy velencében, with a German-language version shot at the same time. Further filmed versions followed in 1942, 1953, 1973 and 1975.
The late Philip Hope-Wallace, a critic with a delightful turn of phase, wrote of the operetta in The Gramophone in September 1955: "A Night in Venice (1883), with the canals running with schmaltz and many a German joke about macaroni and La donna being mobile, may put off the ultra austere, but I think you would have be pretty stiff not to surrender". Of the recording he felt "This set speaks for itself. Outside the world of the gramophone you would never expect to encounter an operetta with a cast like this one".
The rôle of Annina is undertaken by the German soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006), the wife of recording producer and impresario Walter Legge whom she married in 1953. She studied at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik and later with the soprano Maria Ivogun, making her début as one of the Flowermaidens in Parsifal with the Städtische Oper, Berlin, in 1938. Originally a lyric soprano she undertook rôles such as Adele in Die Fledermaus, Musetta in La Bohème and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos when she joined the Vienna State Opera under Karl Böhm in 1943. Her first overseas appearance was with this company on their visit to London in 1948, when she sang Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni and Marzelline in Fidelio. She then joined the fledgling Covent Garden Company, where for five seasons she sang a variety of rôles, mostly in English. Alongside these appearances, Schwarzkopf sang at the Salzburg Festival (1946-1964), La Scala, Milan (1948-1963), San Francisco (1955-1964) and, finally, at the Metropolitan in New York in 1964. She was greatly admired in the rôles of the Marschallin, Fiordiligi, the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro and Donna Elvira. She also had a distinguished parallel career as a Lieder singer in the concert hall. She recorded a number of operetta rôles including Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus and Saffi in Der Zigeunerbaron.
The versatility of the Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda has always been considered remarkable in that he has sung in and can speak seven languages. Born in Stockholm in 1925 of a Russian father, a bass member of the Kuban Don Cossack Choir and later cantor at the Russian Orthodox Church in Leipzig, and a Swedish mother, he studied with the Swedish tenor Carl Maria Oehman at the Swedish Royal Academy of Music. He made his début at the Royal Opera in Stockholm in 1951 in the première of Sutermeister's Der rote Stiefe, followed by the rôle of Chapelou in Adam's Le postillon de Longjumeau in April 1952, an occasion which brought him to international attention. After taking part in the first Western recording of Boris Godunov under Dobrowen (Naxos 8.110242-44), Gedda made his La Scala début in 1953 as Don Ottavio and as the Groom in the première of Orff's Il trionfo di Afrodite. The following years saw him appear at the Paris Opéra (Huon in Oberon), the Aix-en-Provence Festival, Covent Garden (the Duke in Rigoletto), Salzburg Festival (Belmonte in Die Entführung) and the Metropolitan in New York as Gounod's Faust. In 1958 he created the rôle of Anatol in Barber's Vanessa, which he also gave in Salzburg. He first sang Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini at the Holland Festival in 1961, which he later repeated at Covent Garden in 1966, 1969 and 1976. He also appeared in Russia in 1980-81 to great acclaim. His London concert hall début took place in 1986. He sang at the Met for 22 seasons in 27 rôles in 289 performances. He was still recording as recently as 2002. Gedda has proved the most versatile lyric tenor of his time with a vast discography covering every conceivable aspect of the repertory.
The Austrian baritone Erich Kunz (1909-1995) was assigned the rôle of Caramello. Born in Vienna, he studied with Professor Lierhammer and the baritone Hans Duhan. Making his début as Osmin in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail in Troppau in 1933, he spent the summer of 1935 as a member of the Glyndebourne Festival Chorus. This was followed by periods in Plauen (1936-37) and Breslau (1937-41) before joining the Vienna State Opera in 1940. Two years later followed his Salzburg Festival as Figaro. The year 1943 saw Kunz at the Bayreuth Festival singing Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger, a rôle he would repeat in 1951. He visited London in 1948 as a member of the Vienna Company, singing Leporello, Figaro and Guglielmo. He sang the last rôle on his return to Glyndebourne in 1950. His years at the Metropolitan in New York were between 1952 and 1954 when he sang 22 performances of four rôles, Beckmesser, Leporello, Faninal and Figaro. He again sang in London with the Vienna Company in 1954. Kunz was a fine Mozartian with an engaging stage manner.
The rôle of Ciboletta is sung by the Austrian soprano, Emmy Loose (1914-1987), who was born in Karbitz/Aussig (on the Elbe) in Bohemia. Educated at the Prague Conservatory, she made her début in 1939 as Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail in Hanover. Two years later she was engaged by the Vienna State Opera to perform Ännchen in Der Freischütz. She sang there for 25 continuous years as a lyric and coloratura soprano. Loose also appeared at seasons in Salzburg and Glyndebourne and regularly at the Bregenz and Aix-en-Provence festivals, as well as at La Scala, Milan. She appeared at Covent Garden in London with the Vienna Company in 1948 and as a guest with the resident company, singing Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier and Susanna in Figaro during the 1949- 50 season. She also sang in Japan and North and South America. From 1970 she taught at the Vienna Academy of Music. Emmy Loose was admired in the operas of Mozart and Richard Strauss, a number of which she recorded.
Karl Dönch (1915-1994), who sings Delacqua, spent virtually all his career as a member of the Staatsoper in Vienna, graduating from the chorus to small rôles, which included Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Melitone in La forza del destino, Faninal in Der Rosenkavalier and Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger. He first sang at the Salzburg Festival in 1951 and later appeared in Berlin and Buenos Aires.
The Swiss-naturalised Otto Ackermann (1909-1960) proved to be an outstanding natural operetta interpreter, sensing to perfection the elusive Viennese lilt and phrasing. Born in Bucharest, he first studied there at the Royal Academy of Music before moving to the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, where his teachers were Georg Szell and Leo Prüwer. At the age of fifteen he conducted the Royal Romanian Orchestra while they were on tour before accepting a position in the Opera House of his native city for the 1925-26 season. He was appointed a Kapellmeister at Düsseldorf Opera in 1928 and in 1932 moved to the German Opera in Brno. This was followed by an appointment to the Municipal Theatre in Berne in 1935 where he remained until 1947. Between 1949 and 1955 Ackermann worked regularly at Zurich Opera in addition to the Theater an der Wien between 1947 and 1953. This was followed in turn by a period of three years as Music Director of the Cologne Opera. He returned to Zurich in 1958 but soon became seriously ill, dying in 1960. Ackermann was a fine conductor of both opera and operetta in addition to being admired as a sound Mozartian.
[Track 1] The Overture is a medley of tunes from the operetta.
 The scene is a piazza by the Grand Canal in eighteenth-century Venice. People stroll, enjoying the approaching evening.  The cook Pappacoda congratulates the Venetians on their acquisition of a genuine Neapolitan macaroni maker.  Pappacoda, as he advertises his wares, is joined by Enrico Piselli, the nephew of Senator Delacqua, who wants Pappacoda to send a message for him to Barbara, Delacqua's young wife, arranging an assignation for nine o'clock that evening. Pappacoda resumes his selling, interrupted now by his own beloved Ciboletta, Barbara's maid.
 In a duet with Pappacoda, she deplores the duplicity of men.  A boat draws near, bringing the fisher-girl Annina, who advertises her wares, 'frutti di mare'.
 Pappacoda teases her about her lover Caramello, barber and factotum to the Duke of Urbino. Barbara, Delacqua's wife, appears and Pappacoda gives her Enrico's message. As they go, Delacqua himself appears, with Senator Barbaruccio. The Duke has invited them, with their wives, to a masked ball, and Delacqua, who has hopes of a profitable position from the Duke, is also aware of his character, and has therefore decided to send his wife Barbara to the island of Murano to stay with an aunt, out of harm's way.
 Caramello, barber and factotum to the Duke, arrives, preceding the Duke's arrival, proud of himself and his position, and greeted by the people.  Pappacoda tells him of Delacqua's plan to keep Barbara away from the Count's planned masked ball, and Caramello decides to take the place of the gondolier and take Barbara to the Duke's palace. Barbara, however, is determined not to miss her planned meeting with Enrico, and arranges for Annina to take her place on the gondola.  Caramello is Annina's lover, but has neglected her. She describes him as a migrating swallow, 'pellegrina rondinella'.
 Ciboletta is upset because Pappacoda has no money to take her out, but Caramello solves the difficulty by offering them invitations to the Duke's ball.  Now Annina and Caramello, Pappacoda and Ciboletta, can all go to the masked ball, although that is as far as Ciboletta intends to go on this occasion. A messenger announces the arrival of the Duke.  The Duke greets his beloved Venice, and its pretty girls.  He asks Caramello whether he has spoken to Barbara. Delacqua joins them, apologizing for Barbara's absence from the coming celebration, as she has had to visit a sick aunt, but Caramello assures the Duke that matters are in hand. Delacqua, pursuing his ambition of acquiring a position as steward to the Duke, plans to provide the Duke with a false Barbara, as an inducement. He calls to Barbara and bids her goodbye. Caramello meanwhile explains to the Duke that he will signal to Barbara by singing Komm' in die Gondel.  The Duke is delighted at the prospect, while Barbara and Annina are heard preparing their disguises for the masked ball, with Pappacoda.
 Pappacoda asks Ciboletta if she has brought him a costume.  The voice of the Duke is heard, singing Komm'in die Gondel, mein Liebchen. Annina, disguised as Barbara, bids Delacqua goodbye, as she sets out, it seems, for Murano.  Delacqua is greeted by a group of party-goers, including Pappacoda and Ciboletta, making fun of the Senator, with the Duke's song heard in the distance.  People join in the mock serenade to old Delacqua, who thanks them, while Barbara slips away.  The Duke anticipates pleasure to come.
 In his palace the Duke is waiting for Caramello's arrival with Barbara. The senators' wives make their stately entrance, led by Senator Barbaruccio's wife Agricola, ready for the amorous Duke.  The Duke greets Agricola Barbaruccio, and Caramello ushers in the Duke's expected guest.  It is, of course, Annina, who has taken the place of Barbara, delighted at the situation that she now finds herself in.  Caramello discovers Annina's identity.  She, however, is resolved to pursue the adventure on which she has embarked.  The Duke expresses his satisfaction with Caramello, whom he sends away.  Now alone with his supposed Barbara, he reminds her of what she said to him last year. Meanwhile Pappacoda is searching for Ciboletta.  The Duke's guests are enjoying the ball, thanks to the invitations that Caramello has given out to so many, including Pappacoda. Caramello, of course, is anxious to protect his Annina from the Duke.  The Duke is eager to be alone with his supposed Barbara, but matters are complicated when Delacqua attempts to introduce a woman whom he claims is his wife, an attempt to flatter the Duke into employing him as steward. The woman is, in fact, Ciboletta in disguise, as Annina tells the Duke.  The Duke recalls his earlier song to Barbara.  Delacqua thinks all is going well, but Ciboletta, as Delacqua has told her, takes the occasion to ask the Duke for a position for her man, not, as Delacqua had told her, a stewardship for him, but the position of cook for Pappacoda. The Duke agrees at once.  He is happy with the two girls, while they are waited on by Caramello and Pappacoda, anxious to keep an eye on matters.  When the bells of St Mark's sound it will be time for the Duke to lead celebrations in St Mark's Square, and the company duly go on for further revelry.
 In St Mark's Square the company gathers to celebrate carnival.  Annina, Ciboletta, the Duke and Caramello praise the pigeons of St Mark's as messengers of love.  Caramello, however, cannot rejoice, when he sees Annina together with the Duke, feelings he expresses in a waltz-song.  Ciboletta reveals to Delacqua that Barbara is not on Murano, to his chagrin, and he wanders off, searching for her. Pappacoda is consoled by learning that he has been appointed ducal cook.  Pappacoda and Ciboletta celebrate their good fortune.  The Duke asks Ciboletta where her mistress is, and she explains the imposture of Annina, a revelation that seems not to disturb him unduly. Delacqua still searches for Barbara, who appears, explaining that she had boarded the wrong gondola, but been rescued by Delacqua's nephew Enrico. Caramello is promoted, as he wished, to the position of steward.  All ends to general satisfaction.
J. Strauss II: Eine Nacht in Venedig
Recorded 25-28 and 31 May and 25 September 1954 in Kingsway Hall, London
First issued on Columbia 33CX 1224 and 1225
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STRAUSS II, J.: Nacht in Venedig (Eine) (Schwarzko...