Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: A Viennese Evening (1963)

by | Feb 8, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: A Viennese Evening (1963)

Program: SUPPE: Die Schoene Galathee Overture; J. STRAUSS, JR.: Wiener Blut aria; Tales From the Vienna Woods, Op. 325; JOSEF STRAUSS: Delirien Waltz; Jockey Polka; HEUBERGER: Der Opernball aria; ZELLER: Der Vogelhaendler: 2 Arias; LEHAR: Vilja from Die Lustige Witwe; SIECZYNSKI: Wien du Stadt meiner Traume
Performers: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano/ Orchestre de Radio-Canada/ Willi Boskovsky
Studio: VAI DVD 4390
Video: 4:3, Black & White
Audio: PCM Mono
Length: 59 minutes
Rating: ****

If actress Zsa-Zsa Gabor had been blessed with operatic talent, she would have been Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006). A beautiful woman with a gorgeous voice, Schwarzkopf often stated that her most satisfying operatic performances were those given in concert form, where she need not worry about stagecraft and props, but could react to the orchestra and to fellow soloists. A veteran of Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, Schwarzkopf imbibed the Viennese style quickly, in two years, having been prior trained in Germany. With husband-producer Walter Legge of EMI, Schwarzkopf left vintage inscriptions of Viennese operetta, especially those led by Otto Ackermann and Lovro von Matacic. But the privilege of seeing her perform in this repertory has been saved for the French Canadians to record for posterity. Though brief, this program (31 October 1963) under concertmaster of the VPO, Willi Boskovsky (1909-1991), fairly swirls in whipped cream and generous spirits.

Boskovsky as a conductor has little need of technique as such. He leads a direct and sensuous version of Suppe’s Beautiful Galatea, with its big waltz-melody that the composer relishes as well. It is only when Boskovsky gets to the Strauss Tales from the Vienna Woods that he picks up his own violin in classic Strauss style and leads with his bow, often joining in the tutti passages and supplying the solo that a zither carries (Anton Karas of old) in the vintage VPO inscriptions. The Delirium Waltz and Jockey Polka provide the festivity of a New Year’s Concert. Schwarzkopf makes her first appearance in Das eines kann. . .ich war echtes Wiener Blut. And Vienna blood it is. Her diction perfect, her voice able to move from arioso speech-song, with its touch of confidentiality and conviviality to luscious, rapturous, swooping high notes, she traverses a style whose lilt drips with charm. Later, in Vilja, we reach the height of collaboration, Boskovsky all smiles as he surrounds the ballad with strumming ecstasies. For the Heuberger excerpt from The Opera Ball, a garden scene replaces the bare stage. When Schwarzkopf and Boskovksy are together before the orchestra players only, what the stage lacks in sets and décor it compensates for in smiles and good will. Vienna, City of My Dreams concludes the all-too-brief recital, and what better spokespersons for this musical conceit than these two legends?

— Gary Lemco

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