SUPPE: Famous Overtures

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Franz von Suppe (1819-1895)

Famous Overtures

The composer FranzSuppe, the possessor of an imposing string of names and title as FrancescoEzechiele Ermenegildo Cavaliere Suppe Demelli, was born in the Dalmatian townof Spalato (the modern Split) in 1819. His father, a civil servant in theservice of the Austrian Empire like his father before him, was of remoterBelgian origin, his mother Viennese by birth. Suppe made his career chiefly inVienna. As a boy he had no encouragement in music from his father, but washelped by a local bandmaster and by the Spalato cathedral choirmaster. His Missadalmatica dates from this early period. Following his father's wishes, hestudied law in Padua, while pursuing his musical interests privately,particularly during visits to Milan, where he heard operas by Rossini,Donizetti and the young Verdi and met the composers. The death of his father in1835 led to removal with his mother to Vienna, to the home of her parents. Herehe attempted courses at the Polytechnic and in the University School ofMedicine, before deciding on music as a profession. He now took lessons fromIgnaz von Seyfried and Simon Sechter, representatives of an earlier age ofViennese classicism, paying his way by giving Italian lessons, and in 1840 startedunpaid work as theatre conductor at the Theater in der Josefstadt, then underFranz Pokorn?¢, who was also associated with theatres in Baden, ?ûdenburg (nowSopron) and Pressburg (the modern Bratislava), spending the years from 1842 to1844 in the last of these. His first stage success came in 1841 with the comedywith songs Jung lustig, im Alter traurig oder Die Folgen der Erziehung ('Happyin Youth, Sad in Old Age or The Consequences of Education'). Earlier Italianoperas, Virginia written in 1837 and Gertrude della valle, composedin 1841 and shown to his visiting distant kinsman Donizetti, remainedunperformed, but from 1844 he was entrusted also with the direction of Italianoperas. These years were busy, allowing him to write a number of scores for theJosefstadt Theater and the other theatres, to conduct and, in ?ûdenburg in 1842,to appear as a singer, taking the part of Dulcamara in Donizetti's L'elisir

d'amore. In 1845 he moved to the Theater an der Wien, Schikaneder's old theatre,now acquired by Pokorn?¢. Here he remained for the next seventeen years, workingat first with Lortzing and, after 1848, with Adolf M??ller. These years saw thecomposition of a number of successful theatre pieces, Singspiel, operas andplays with songs, as well as a Requiem for Franz Pokorn?¢ in 1855.

It was in 1860, with his two act operetta Das Pensionat forPokorn?¢'s son Alois, that Suppe first embarked on the genre of Vienneseoperetta at the Theater an der Wien. Two years later, with Alois Pokorn?¢'sbankruptcy, he became conductor at the Kaitheater, later destroyed by fire,moving then to the Carltheater with the actor-manager Carl Treumann. It washere, above all, that he established his reputation as a composer of lightopera, from Das Corps der Rache ('The Revenge Corps') in 1864 to DasModell, left incomplete at his death in 1895, but staged in the sametheatre six months later in aversion finished by others. He had retired fromthe Carltheater in 1882, after the failure of Das Herzblattchen ('TheSweetheart'), which he blamed on the production. His position in the world ofViennese operetta had been recognised the previous year by the freedom of thecity. Operetta in Vienna owed much to the influence of the younger JohannStrauss, but Suppe brought to the task a much longer experience of the theatreand, it might be suggested, wider musical experience from his early background.

Never entirely losing his Italian accent, he brought to Austrian operetta anItalian gift of vocal melody, with a sure technical command of the resources ofcomposition. He may be regarded as the creator of Viennese operetta, althoughhis invention may have begun to fail in his later years, when a hostileViennese critic remarked that his music was not the heady wine of Strauss but aDalmatian Suppe (soup).

The operetta Die schone Galatea ('Fair Galatea'), was firstperformed at Meysel's in Berlin in June 1865. The libretto by Poly Henrion, thepen-name of Kohl von Kohlenegg, deals with the subject of Pygmalion, whocreated a beautiful statue, Galatea, brought to life by the intercession ofVenus. In the operetta Galatea proves so troublesome, wooed by the rich Mydasand flirting with Pygmalion's servant Ganymede, that he prays for her to beturned again to stone. His prayer is answered and the statue is sold to Mydas,who had first set his heart on acquiring it. The sparkling overture, hinting atthe drama to come, is among the more familiar. The satirical-mythological storyis akin to the popular Offenbach excursions into this territory in Orpheeaux enfers and La belle Helene.

Leichte Kavallerie ('Light Cavalry'), a comic operetta in two acts, witha text by C. Costa, was first staged at the Carltheater on 21st March 1866. Theoverture opens with a fanfare, echoed, before launching into the familiar musicof sparkle and brilliance.

Fatinitza, an operetta in three acts, based on La circasienne of Eug?¿neScribe, set by Auber, has a text by Zell and Genee, two of the mostdistinguished collaborators in the genre of operetta. Zell was the pseudonym ofCamillo Walzel, who had spent seventeen years as a captain with the DanubeSteamship Company, after a varied earlier career. He was artistic director from1884 to 1889 at the Theater an der Wien, where Richard Genee was conductor from1868 to 1878. Zell, Genee and Suppe died within a few weeks of each other in1895. Set in the Crimean War, it deals with the mistakes that occur whenLieutenant Wladimir adopts female disguise, captivating the GeneralKantschukoff and later finding himself imprisoned in a Turkish harem. It wasfirst staged at the Carltheater in 1876.

Boccaccio oder DerPrinz von Palermo, anotherZell and Genee collaboration, is a three-act operetta. The plot of the operettaconcerns the poet Boccaccio and his attempts, in various disguises, to woo thenatural daughter of the Duke of Tuscany, Fiametta, whom, in spite of hisscandalous reputation in Florence, he eventually marries. Boccaccio, oneof Suppe's greatest successes, was staged at the Carltheater in February 1879.

The March is heard in Act III and appears again to bring the whole pieceto a memorable conclusion.

The very dramatic overture to Irrfahrt um's Gl??ck ('Fortune'sLabyrinth') is followed by the well known overture to Ein Morgen, Mittag undAbend in Wien ('Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna'), used virtually in thesame form for the operetta Der Kramer und sein Commis and designed tointroduce a two-act operetta first staged at the Josefstadt Theatre in February1844.

Banditenstreiche ('Jolly Robbers'), in 1867, its opening fanfaresheralding a more ominous motif, before a march begins, relaxes into aninitially gentler dance of some mountain hide-away, while Pique-Dame ('Queenof Spades') was a revised version of the earlier Die Kartenschlagerin, thatproved less successful in its earlier version, staged at the Kaitheater in1862, to be remounted to a better reaction under its new title in 1865, now atthe Carltheater. It has an overture that starts ominously enough, before theseemingly inevitable excursion into a lighter mood.

Flotte Burschen, generally and infelicitously translated into Englishas Gay Blades, has an
Item number 8553935
Barcode 730099493529
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Romantic
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Suppe, Franz von
Suppe, Franz von
Conductors Walter, Alfred
Walter, Alfred
Orchestras Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra
Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra
Disc: 1
Poet and Peasant (Dichter und Bauer)
1 The Beautiful Galatea (Die schone Galatea)
2 Light Cavalry (Leichte Kavallerie)
3 Fatinitza
4 Boccaccio March
5 Fortune's Labyrinth (Irrfahrt um's Gluck)
6 Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna (Ein Morgen, ein
7 Jolly Robbers (Banditenstreiche)
8 Queen of Spades (Die Kartenschlagerin)
9 Gay Blades (Flotte Burschen)
10 Poet and Peasant (Dichter und Bauer)
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