Carl Millöcker: Der Bettelstudent
Mirko Roschkowski (Symon Rymanowicz), Cornelia Zink (Laura), Milko Milev (Colonel Ollendorf), Gert Henning Jensen (Jan Janicki), Daniela Kälin (Bronislava), Linda Plech (Countess Palmatica), Rui dos Santos (Major von Wangenheim), Michael Zehe (Rittmeister von Henrici), Yuri Dmytruk (Lieutenant von Schweinitz), Dirk Lohr (Lieutenant von Rochow), Alexandra Joel (Kornett von Richthofen), Steven Scheschareg (Bogumil), Franziska Stanner (Eva), Rupert Bergmann (Onuphrie), Olaf Plassa (Enterich), Alexander Voigt (Piffke), Ulrich Milde (Puffke), Claudio Hiller (Rej), Mörbisch Festival Choir and Ballet, Thomas Böttcher (Chorus Master), Mörbisch Festival Orchestra, Günter Fruhmann (Conductor), Yadegar Asisi (Video Director), Uwe Theimer (Musical Director), Ralf Nürnberger (Stage and Lighting Designer), Susanne Thomasberger (Costume Designer), Renato Zanella (Choreography)
Recording: Bauernkapelle St. Georgen, Austria (2013) – 148’
Videoland Klassik #VLMD 020 – Booklet in Austrian and English - Subtitles in English (Distributed by Naxos of America)
Operettas made a big hit in Europe in the mid to late 19th century. Undoubtedly, the first composer that comes to mind in Vienna would be that of Johann Strauss. But there is also another one of the latter’s contemporaries that deems recognition, that being Carl Millöcker, a flutist-turned composer who also led the first runs of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus (1874) at the Theater an der Wien.
Millöcker’s financial success rested predominately with Der Bettlestudent (The Beggar Student) in 1882. Favorability toward this historic romantic comedy, set in Saxony occupied Poland in 1704, was so great that within a span of 25 years (1896 to 1921) close to 5,000 performances hit the stages on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s hard to see why today this piece is overlooked as it has a plenteous selection of lively hummable tunes and absurdity galore.
Mörbisch Seefestspiele’s Dagmar Schellenberger brings to the theatre Ralf Nürnberger’s colorful staging with opulent, overtly buffoon laden costuming by Susanne Thomasberger. There are a fine selection of marches, krakowiaks, polonaises and waltzes that maintain an effervescent zip under the choreography by Renato Zanella. Millöcker’s music begins with a tolling bell that brings to mind Von Flotow’s Richmond Market from Martha, but it also pops with Offenbachian pizazz (ref: the champagne drinking shoe song, “Gulp, gulp, gulp”.)
Because of the venue where this Der Bettlestudent was held, the 6,000 seat outdoor amphitheater includes a body of water in front of the actual stage. Distance to the audience requires singers to use microphones. This doesn’t create any problem, rather it magnifies the voices of all. The sound is richly superb and really captures all talent within the cast.
Based on Victorien Sardous’s 1870 Fernande and Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1838 The Lady of Lyons, the plot revolves around Colonel Ollendorf (Governor of Poland…a Saxon) seeking revenge for the slap he received when kissing the Countess Palmatica’s daughter, Laura, on the shoulder. Linda Zink has wonderful diction and a voice of clarity and distinction that doesn’t quit from the moment she arrives on stage. Laura’s sister, Bronislava (Daniela Käln), is more in the mezzo category while their mother, the Countess Palmatica, performed here by Linda Plech, has a pleasantly matronly demeanor. Their terzetto (along with Rupert Bergmann’s clownish gesticulations as the servant Onuphrie) is a fine display of how well three female voices blend together in wonderful harmony.
In the title role of The Beggar Student (Symon Rymanowicz) we find Mirko Roschkowski whose tenor voice carries clarity and marvelous breath control through his phrasing. The Laura/Symon duet (“Sol lich redden?”)(ref: the Camille/Valencienne Romanze “Wie eine Rosenknospe” from Die lustige Witwe) has lyrical charm and innocent infatuation that is sure to please anyone who sees this recording.
Der Bettlestudent has quite a bit of dialogue between numbers; therefore, this provides a clear opportunity to see the acting abilities from several of the performers. Gert Henning Jensen, dressed in finely detailed 18th century couture, has brilliantine charm in voice and dialogue; his tête-à-tête with Bronislava (“Durch diesen Kuss”) radiates passion, warmth and light-hearted frivolity.
Equally hilarious is Milko Milev as Colonel Ollendorf, especially when surrounded by his corps of military consorts that comes across in the same vein as a five-man team of diluted “Keystone Cops.” Milev’s couplet (“Schwamm drüber”) in Act II is more like a one-man stand-up comedy routine which keeps on going (ref: “But wait! There’s more.) Quite the comedic investiture.
Carl Millöcker’s Der Bettelstudent will leave you smiling and holding on to catchy numbers that bowl over in brightness. This has very superior sound quality, a top-notch cast and meticulous orchestration under the direction of Günter Fruhmann. Anyone who loves Viennese operetta will certainly want to include this piece for their collection. First rate on all fronts.