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Johann Strauss II: Waldmeister
Robert Davidson (Chrisof Heffele), Dorothe Ingenfeld (Malwine Heffele), Annika Egert (Freda), Friedemann Büttner (Erasmus Friedrich Müller), Noah Schaul (Tymoleon von Gerius), Martina Bortolotti von Haderburg (Pauline Garlandt), Andrea Chudak (Jeanne), Daniel Schliewa (Botho von Wendt), Simeon Pilibosyan (Danner), Nikolai Ivanov (Erich), Sofia Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra, Slavil Dimitrov (chorus master), Dario Salvi (conductor)
Recording: Bulgaria Hall, Sofia, Bulgaria (January 13-19, 2020) – 124’13
Naxos 8.660489-90 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English and German

Best known for his comical operetta, Die Fledermaus of 1874, Johann Strauss II continued in fertile territory by creating over a dozen more œuvres, one which landed on the stage on December 4, 1895. Waldmeister is one of Strauss’ more obscure compositions even though it was favorably received by the Viennese to the tune of 88 performances in its heyday. Interestingly enough, Waldmeister was also greatly admired by Strauss’ friend, Johannes Brahms. Those with an infatuation of the illustrious “King of Waltz” will likely want to grab this World Premiere Recording but with a couple of caveats.

Musically speaking, Waldmeister isn’t permeating. Despite the music having, occasionally, flittering bustles of ebullience, catchy polkas and marches with effervescent ensembles, the lasting impression is void in its ability to spark any rarified fireworks and pizzazz that Fledermaus truly elicits. This reckoning is hindered by a recording that’s dreadfully tinny and shallow in richness.

The cast of principals is a mixed bag. On the plus side, Martina Bortolotti von Haderburg (Pauline) is one of the strongest singers in the cast: voice and animation fit in perfectly with this ludicrous Straussian plotline. Alongside Mlle von Haderburg’s role as the Dresden Opera singer, Andrea Chudak holds together a stalwart and confident song line in her portrayal of Jeanne, one of Pauline’s friends: singing with bold firmity, it’s precisely designed for Johann Strauss’ operettas. Hands down, Friedemann Büttner’s characterization of Erasmus Friedrich Müller, the proverbial botanist par excellence, brings to the stage a forthright tenor register by bringing with it the utmost dashes of appropriate arrogance. Botho von Wendt, here sung by Daniel Schliewa, is light but a tad febrile in the high notes. Dario Salvi’s tempo is lackluster, and the music never achieves a level of poignant energy.

Waldmeister’s libretto can be accessed through Naxos’ website; however, the text is only written in German with no parallel siding to English...a big miss. The synopsis that “pairs” sentences with track listings and their assigned singers is inaccurate, making the entire journey into this operetta an extremely tedious task.

Should this release have amped up its scrutinization, from the standpoint of libretto translation and a more succinctly written text, Waldmeister may have triumphed. Unfortunately, Waldmeister’s stake to reach even within the border of Strauss’ inner sanctum is severely nil.

Christie Grimstad




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