Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Friedrich von Flotow - Martha - Rothenberger, Fassbaender, Gedda, Prey, Heger







Flotow's opera "Martha" was once a very popular and frequently performed opera, but today, with the exception of its well known tenor aria "Ach so fromm," usually sung in Italian, the work is relatively unknown. Yet it was for many years a staple at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and a favorite of tenor Enrico Caruso. It is comic opera, originally performed in German, but there are also French and Italian versions of the work as well. It tells the story of a high class woman who becomes a farm maid just to overcome boredom, and falls in loveFriedrich von Flotow with the owner of the farm. The plot formula is not all that original, the two meet and fall in love, something threatens the love, but all ends happily ever after. If the plot is not all that original, the music is very rich and melodious. Martha is not a singspiel, meaning that the music is continuous without spoken dialogue. While it has a light feeling to it like an operetta, the music is as sophisticated as many of the more serious German operas.

The opera has a rousing overture that is sometime performed in concert halls as a free standing work. There are many lively ensembles, arias duets as well as choral parts. Listeners will not only be familiar with Lyonel's famous aria, but also an aria based on the Irish folk song "The Last Rose of Summer" which helps give this German opera a bit of local color since it takes place in the British countryside (at the time the opera was composed, Britain occupied all of Ireland).

In this recording, Nicolai Gedda is Lyonel, one of the tenor's favorite roles. The recording dates back to the late 1960's and Gedda is in top vocal form. His love interest, Lady Harriet is sung by Anneliese Rothenberger. The versatile and gifted baritone Hermann Prey is Plunkett. The recording is superb, and after listening to it, many would wonder why the opera is not performed more often. 


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