University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - von Suppe: Il Ritorno del Marinaio

05/13/2018 1:00 pm
05/13/2018 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

The traditions of Viennese operetta begin with Franz von Suppe (1819-95). He wrote thirty one operettas and other lyric theater music besides, although today he is remembered only for two pops concert favorites, the "Light Cavalry" and "Poet and Peasant" overtures. Without doubt the single best one of his operettas- the one that most closely approaches the genius of Johann Strauss the Younger- is Boccaccio (1879). On Sunday, August 13, 2000 I broadcast a 1974 German EMI Electrola recording of Boccaccio in its EMI Classics CD reissue.

Another one of von Suppe's tuneful lyric stageworks is his romantic opera in two acts Il Ritorno del Marinaio ("The Mariner's Return," 1885). It seems to have been composed originally to a German language libretto for its premiere production at Hamburg. There does exist, however, an Italian language version of the wordbook prepared by an anonymous translator. It comes along with the published piano-vocal score and also appears partly in von Suppe's full autograph score of this delightful work as preserved in the Vienna City and State library.

It was the Italian version of "The Mariner's Return" that was taken up for recorded performance by Rijeka Opera in 2016. Rijeka is a city on the Adriatic Sea in what was once Croatia/Dalmatia and in von Suppe's time part of the Austrian empire. (The place was known as Fiume in Italian.) Von Suppe was born in Split (in Italian, Spalato) farther down the Dalmatian coast. A conductor who is a native of the region, Adriano Martinolli D'Arcy (born in Trieste) leads the Rijeka Opera Symphony Orchestra and Rijeka Opera Choir. The story of "The Mariner's Return" is set at Lesina, farther yet down the coast from Split, where a long-absent warship comes back to port. The homecoming feast for the sailors includes a ballet sequence of Dalmatian folk dances.

Il Ritorno del Marinaio comes to us on two German CPO compact discs, released in 2017. At the staged premiere of von Suppe's work in Hamburg the evening's entertainment was rounded out by the presentation of Act Three from Verdi's Il Trovatore. I will follow that precedent in this Sunday's broadcast.