The Legends of Soviet Operetta  (7-Aquarius  AQVR 413)
Item# OP3324
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The Legends of Soviet Operetta  (7-Aquarius  AQVR 413)
OP3324 THE LEGENDS OF SOVIET OPERETTA, incl. Klaudia Novikova, Evdokia Lebedeva, Vladimir Volodin, Grigory Yaron, Mikhail Kachalov, Sofia Vermel, Tatiana Bach, Nikolai Bravin, Regina Lazareva, Olga Vlasova, Serafim Anikeev, Nadezhda Kazantseva, Elizaveta Pokrovskaya, Kapitolina Kuzmina, Ignatiy Gedroits, Anna Kuznetsova, Nikolai Ruban, Elena Granovskaya, Nikolay Krotov, Anna Gedroits, Vasily Zarubeev, Vladimir Volodin, Nikolay Krotov, Elena Savitskaya, etc.: Excerpts from DIE CSARDASFURSTIN, GRAFIN MARIZA, DER GRAF VON LUXEMBOURG, SOROCHINSY FAIR, A WEDDING IN MALINOVKA & ON THE BANK OF THE AMUR RIVER. (Russia) 7-Aquarius AQVR 413, broadcast performances, 1938-45, in Boxed Set w. Elaborate 41pp Brochure incl. photos & notes in Cyrillic and English. - 4607123632055

CRITIC REVIEWS:

“The 1930s can rightly be called the golden age of acting in the art of operetta. The troup of the Moscow Operetta Theatre was formed from a brilliant pleiad of masters of this genre. Grigory Yaron was the only phenomenon of his kind. He did not copy anyone and it was impossible to imitate him. His physical constitution, ‘miniaturism’ and sharp comedic talent largely determined the manner and style of his acting. Emphasizing his individual characteristics and playing up to them, Yaron employed large strokes, rich colours and sharp contrasts. In a peculiarly grotesque manner, the Yaron buffade was also starkly different. He had a subtle feeling for the music and with complete control of his body, he was a virtuoso-dancer. ‘Yaron without dance’, said V. Nemirovich-Danchenko, ‘is only half a Yaron’.

The principal actor was Vladimir Volodin who was truly national - both in his work and in his nationwide popularity, which brought him roles in the most famous Soviet musical films. Unforced humour, rare charm, and infectious cheerfulness endeared viewers to Volodin from the very first minute. Volodin performed at the Moscow Operetta Theatre from the very beginning right up until the end of his career, becoming one of the most beloved operatic artists. For jokes and witticisms, verses and songs, Volodin always projected a vivid, deeply humane image; the genuine nature of his interpretation was always felt.

For many years, the lyrical duo of Evdokia Lebedeva and Mikhail Kachalov delighted audiences with their exceptional charm. They were as one with their inner emotional structure and the natural beauty of their voices and warmth of their souls. The artists sang with the eternal touching poetry of human emotions. It is noteworthy that in Kachalov’s appearance there was nothing of the operetta hero: he was not tall, without fiery eyes and burning temperament. And yet at the same time, when Kachalov sang, there was never indifference from the auditorium. Listeners were conquered not by external effects, but by his soft stage charm and charming, ‘Kachalovian’ timbred voice filled with the utmost sincerity.

The legendary, older actors of the Moscow Operetta Theatre in those years were Nikolai Bravin and Tatiana Bach. The possessor of a strong, flexible and unusually beautiful baritone, Bravin graduated from Umberto Mazetti’s (the teacher of Antonina Nezhdanova, Nadezhda Obukhova), class at the Moscow Conservatory, who predicted a brilliant operatic future for his student. Bravin received genuine recognition in his performances of operetta. Possessing a rich baritone of large range, thick velvet timbre and exemplary diction, Bravin played the leading baritone roles in classical operetta, and in the 1930s he became the first performer of a number of roles in operettas by Soviet composers. In her youth, Tatiana Bach played in the Viennese operettas, and later gained fame as a performer of musical theatre roles. Beautiful and elegant, with great stage talent, Tatiana Bach’s bright temperament, genuine gaiety and wonderful dancing skills were the distinctive features of her work.

Klaudia Novikova’s heroines attracted audiences with their stormy temperament, active vitality, a wide palette of bright colours, and by the variety of characters. Novikova's strong, chesty voice, with a velvety touch, expressed feelings and experiences which thrilled her audience. ‘A real prima donna, and an incendiary artist with the sun in her blood’, recalled Tatiana Shmyga when speaking of Klaudia Novikova.

The outstanding actress Regina Lazareva was distinguished by the naturalness and elegance of her performances. Like an engraving artist, she honed the reliefs and nuances of each role. Tatiana Shmyga recalled: ‘Of all the actresses of the older generation, I singled out Regina Lazareva. She was, and remained for me, the most beloved artist in our art form. Her talent was unique. She had a rare, peculiar voice, a lyrical operetta soprano. It was a special operetta chic; she was born for the operetta’.

Sofia Vermel was a vocalist steeped in the operatic musical culture, even attending a ballet school. She played her heroines with an exquisite femininity and artistically combined singing with dramatic art; (her recordings are especially rare). Olga Vlasova was, in those years, an actress performing lyrical-operetta soprano roles. She created many portrayals of young girls in both classical and Soviet operetta.

In those years, the talent of Serafim Anikeev flourished. He was an artist of original individuality, who was already experienced in drama and stage-craft which he tempered with bold acrobatic flights in the circus, with clown-shaped motifs on the carpet. He was a favourite of the public, a cheerful inventor and improviser with a unique comedic charm.

What do we know today about this amazing theatre, about this brightest of epochs - about the Moscow Operetta Theatre of the 1930s? Strangely enough, very few people know that in the late thirties at the All-Union Radio, the Moscow Operetta Theatre recorded a number of its performances for broadcast. Until now, none of these unique and truly priceless recordings has been released in their entirety - neither in Soviet times on records, nor in our own time on CDs. Small fragments of these recordings were occasionally published on solo records showcasing the old masters of the operetta - Klaudia Novikova, Nikolay Bravin, Vladimir Volodin, Mikhail Kachalov, Evdokia Lebedeva and Serafim Anikeev. In the 1950s, some of these operettas were re-recorded. However, in these later recordings, radio soloists and even artists from the Bolshoi Theatre were often invited to sing the central roles, while in the recordings, collected in this album, from the late 1930s, we hear only artists from the Moscow Operetta Theatre. In these recordings, made with the technology of the time - on tonfilm (a film soundtrack), and subsequently transferred on to magnetic tape, the atmosphere of this legendary theatre at its creative peak was vividly conveyed. This set includes all known recordings of the Moscow Operetta Theatre performances of this period.”

- Maxim Nikiforov





“Moscow Operetta Theatre is one of Russia’s best-loved institutions. Since 1927 ‘Mosoperetta’ has provided a port in the storm for countless citizens – not least Dmitri Shostakovich, a dyed- in-the-wool fan, whose ‘Moskva, Cheryómushki’ was written with the company’s special acting, singing and dancing skillset in mind. Aquarius have gathered everything they could carry from Moscow Radio’s period archives, and their collection offers us a chance to hear the founding artists, working together in their inimitable way. Comedic speed was of the essence.

Three discs are devoted to the Viennese ‘silver age’, four to a trio of rarely-heard Soviet operettas. Moscow audiences have always had a taste for Emmerich Kalman – five out of the seventeen works in Mosoperetta’s 2019 repertoire are his – so it’s no surprise to find his two most famous pieces here. The 80-minute, potted DIE CSARDASFURSTIN goes particularly well, its whirling dance rhythms whipped into a frenzy by the conductor Georgy Fuchs-Martin. The singers, notably Evdokia Lebedeva’s passionate Silva and the heart-throb tenor Mikhail Kachalov as Edwin, keep their balance throughout. The latter also makes an unusually gracious Tassilo in GRAFIN MARIZA. Nearly all the broadcasts are dialogue-heavy; and though this undoubtedly showcases the house style, it does limit the set’s appeal to non-Russian speakers. Lehár’s DER GRAF VON LUXEMBOURG is the exception to the rule, as only musical numbers had been recorded before the intended broadcast was shelved.

ON THE BANKS OF THE AMUR RIVER (1939) proves something of a ‘find’, the first Moscow operetta with a Soviet Realist plot lifted direct from current news. Viktor Tipot’s libretto dramatizes the departure of thousands of young city women to work on river defences in the Far East, where tensions with Japan were rising. The heroines include a typist, a hairdresser and the leader of the Women’s Brigade, all engaged in the predictable business of foiling sabotage and espionage, with a little comedy romance thrown in.

The music is by the Soviet Jewish songsmith Matvey Blanter whose patriotic hit ‘Katyusha’ is familiar to Russians, ancient and modern, around the world – it was a favourite encore of Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Blanter proves to be a theatre composer of great resource, his score packed with ‘earworm’ duets, songs and choruses – many in pithy, martial style – which can even stand comparison with Kálmán. An inspired highlight is the romantic ‘Letter to Mother’, which mixes witty, typewriter imitations (string pizzicati) with generous emotions which wouldn’t be out of place in a Tchaikovsky scena, all stunningly delivered in a bonus track by the great coloratura soprano, Nadezhda Kazantseva.

Those bonus tracks – from rare records, scattered over the seven discs – are among the set’s most valuable features. Aquarius’ Russian and English documentation, supported by many evocative photos of singers and shows, provides a rich context for anyone curious to explore the early years of the Mosoperetta phenomenon. The bracing thrills of Kalman’s classics and Blanter’s AMUR RIVER considerably widen the box’s appeal.”

- Christopher Webber, OPERA