From Mozart to Leoncavallo: three hours of opera’s greatest hits in rhythmically buoyant, highly enjoyable East-German recordings.
Taped between 1959 (Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer) and 1993 (Die Fledermaus), a collection of overtures gets this operatic compilation off to a (literally) flying start. Suitner in particular directs deliciously sprung performances of Humperdinck (Hansel und Gretel), Smetana (The Bartered Bride) and Suppé (Dichter und Bauer / Poet and Peasant and Leichte Kavallerie / Light Cavalry).
The Austro-Germanic angle of CD1 is widened on CD2 by a selection of opera choruses that represents some of the most powerful moments of 19th-century Italian opera. There is the triumphant hymn in praise of Egypt from the second act of Aida as well as the sublime song of pride and defiance, ‘Va pensiero’, that crowns Nabucco and became before long the unofficial anthem of the Risorgimento and the struggle for Italian unification. Verismo choruses are here too, taken from that evergreen pairing of Pagliacci and Cavelleria rusticana. Favourite German operatic choruses include the Chorus of Guests in Wagner’s Tannhäuser as well as the hymn of the priests in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.
Suitner directs all these: a compilation album made in Berlin in 1978. He also exercises a subtle guiding hand over the Staatskapelle Dresden for a compilation of tenor/baritone opera duets recorded in 1972 with the two foremost East-German male singers of their generation, Peter Schreier and Theo Adam. ‘Expectably’ commented Fanfare, ‘the results are echt Deutsch’ – even if the repertoire itself again covers Smetana, Gounod and Verdi as well as Mozart and Lortzing, with all the numbers sung in German and ‘performed with zest’.
The ultimate starter’s kit for the aspiring opera lover: a generous selection of highlights from famous operas: Overtures, Duets and Choruses by Verdi, Wagner, Donizetti, Gounod, Bizet, Mozart, Smetana, Lortzing, Suppé, Strauss, Nicolai, Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Von Flotow, Humperdinck, Weber.
Coming from the rich archives of the VEB, the former East-German label, it offers the finest singing and orchestral playing of its time, featuring Peter Schreier and Theo Adam, the Staatskapelle Dresden, Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Dresdner Philharmonie, Staatskapelle Berlin, Bamberger Symphoniker and conductors Giuseppe Patanè, Manfred Honeck, Otmar Suitner, Franz Konwitschny, Herbert Kegel.