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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Fall: The Rose of Stambul

07/13/2014 1:00 pm
07/13/2014 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

I follow up the modern music of the Americans Bolcom, Musto and Mercurio with an operetta from an earlier period in the history of the Americam lyric theater: Leo Fall's The Rose of Stambul (1916).

Leo Fall (1873-1925) was an Austrian, not an American. A colleague of the Hungarian Franz Lehar, like Lehar his career as a composer drew him to the imperial capital Vienna. There Die Rose von Stambul was as enormous a success as Lehar's Die lustige Witwe. From Vienna it went out all over the world. It had the irresistibly right components of romance, saucy wit, and exoticism. The exotic setting of the operetta is Istanbul (the Stambul of the title), the capital of the Ottoman empire, which in 1916 was about to collapse, as would the empire of Austria-Hungary.

The Turkish harem girls in the story are intelligent and hip. (They're like the Grisettes in "The Merry Widow.") Their over-the top spoken dialog passages are a hoot! And these are spoken in American English!

The translated Rose of Stambul reached New Haven's Shubert Theater in 1922 in a Broadway-style adaptation, but it had never been performed in its original musical form in the United States until Chicago Folks Operetta took it up in 2011. A new English translation of the dialog and lyrics was prepared, updating them a bit. The new historically-informed American production was recorded live in performance for release on two CD's through the Naxos label in 2013. The "period" 1920's sound of the whole affair is particularly interesting to listen to, especially the small pit orchestra. John Frantzen conducts the band and singing cast. These are the voices of American singing actors, not European opera stars.