V2505. BETTY FISCHER ‘Lercherl von Hernals’: Operetta Arias & Duets (w.Max Willenz, Ernst Tautenhayn, Fritz Steiner & Carl Friedrich Sadofsky) by Lehár, Ascher, Bittner, Benatzky, Steininger, Meyer-Helmund, Kutschera, Stolz, Ziehrer, Kálmán, Gruber, Lorens, Oscar Straus & Leo Fall; 1949 Interview with Betty Fischer. (Germany) Truesound Transfers 5001, recorded 1912-31, plus one Leo Fall title from 1953! Transfers by Christian Zwarg.
“In 1924 Betty Fischer created one of the greatest operetta roles of the 20th century: Gräfin Mariza in Emmerich Kálmán’s Viennese super hit. I remember reading the original reviews crediting the overwhelming success mostly to Hubert Marischka and Betty Fischer. NEUES WIENER TAGBLATT praised her ‘grand and powerful voice’ (‘große Gewaltstimme’) possessing the ‘noble timbre of a countess’ while singing, but also her ‘resounding’ speaking voice. When she created Die Zirkusprinzessin in 1926, also with Marschika as partner, DIE REICHSPRESSE speaks of her ‘enchanting vocal and acting abilities’, the Illustriertes Wiener Extrablatt called her singing ‘fragrant and tender’, delivered with ‘bravura’. Ever since reading those lines I have wondered what Miss Fischer actually sounded like, since I’ve never been able to find a single recording of hers. This absence of available recordings was puzzling to me, as almost everyone else involved in GRÄFIN MARIZA had major recording and film careers, be it Max Hansen, Hans Moser, or Hubert Marischka. Now, Truesound Transfers have released an album with 25 of her recordings from 1912 to 1953, which already indicates the enormous span of her career.
After appearing as a lieder singer, director Wilhelm Karczag hired her in 1910 to appear at Theater an der Wien. There, she gave her successful debut in Leo Ascher’s HOHEIT TANZT WALZER. You get to hear three tracks from that show, recorded shortly after the debut: it’s a slender voice of great beauty, easy top and an almost floating quality that is easy on the ear, yet never overblown or operatic in an Anna Moffo of Anna Netrebko way. It is also very one-dimensional in the sense that Miss Fischer doesn’t change her tone, and she certainly doesn’t play with words. Which explains why NEUES WIENER TAGBLATT longed for more ‘of those Massary variations’ in 1924 when reviewing her Mariza. But even without such variations, her singing is highly seductive. And effective.
HOHEIT TANZT WALZER was written by Julius Brammer and Alfred Grünwald, the two librettists who would later write those Kálmán hits. They also created nostalgic pieces such as DIE GOLD’NE MEISTERIN FOR EYSLER, with Miss Fischer in the title role. While she can be heard on this album in many less familiar shows, from DER HUSARENGENERAL by Carl Ziehrer to DER BAUERNGENERAL by Oscar Strauss, and while there are some famous numbers such as ‘Ich muss wieder einmal in Grinzing sein’ by Ralph Benatzky or ‘Im Prater blüh’n wieder die Bäume’ by Robert Stolz, there is a complete absence of Kálmán tracks. Well, almost. Because what you do get are two numbers from DER KLEINE KÖNIG (1913) which are a real rarity under any circumstances. It’s one of Kalman’s big flops that was only recently rediscovered and put back onto the stage at the Ohio Light Opera, with a coinciding DVD release.
Here, you get Fischer with Max Willenz as the king (in ‘Hinweg jetzt mit der ganzen Königswürd’) and with comedian Ernst Tautenhayn (in ‘Im ersten Jahr wollen wir wohnen…’). That’s a treat, because Tautenhayn represents a buffo tradition that is entirely lost today. He is remarkable to listen to!
Most numbers were recorded in 1912/13, then there is one from 1920 (DER BLAUE MAZUR by Franz Lehár), and then we move onto 1930 and the smash hit WALZER AUS WIEN by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Julius Bittner which became THE GREAT WALTZ in the United States. So you bypass Fischer’s two top Kálmán roles, Mariza and Fedora. But at least you can now imagine what they probably sounded like: bathed in melancholia, a certain nostalgic flair, and an effortless delivery from top to bottom, and the other way round.
Since the recordings on this album span such a vast amount of time it’s astonishing that Fischer’s voice hardly ever changes, it retains its youthful loveliness throughout. And only in the very last track, Leo Fall’s ‘Guglhupflied’ from BRÜDERLEIN FEIN, recorded in 1953, do you hear that the vocal chords have aged, even if the style has remained the same. The other famous role missing on this album is her Nadja Nadjakowska from Granichstaedten’s DER ORLOW, which she also created next to Hubert Marischka. I wonder if there are recordings still out there that Christian Zwarg might one day restore for Truesound Transfers, too, and also release in cooperation with the Gesellschaft für historische Tonträger (GHT Wien)."
- Kevin Clarke, Operetta Research Center, 11 June, 2020
"This delightful issue of the beguiling Betty Fischer is from Christian Zwarg's new series featuring CDs in handsome Digipak albums (no more brittle plastic cases nor dull black-and-white covers!). As delighted as we all have been with previous Truesound offerings, this new format is sure to offer even greater satisfaction!"
- J. R. Peters
“...an absolute revelation! Here, the voices come through with tonal sheen, passion and with more personality than any other transfers have been able to bring out. Dynamics and agility are in better relief, as is a sensitivity I had always found lacking. These transfers are absolutely miraculous, and I hope for more Truesound transfers.”
- Davyd Booth, GREAT SINGERS REMEMBERED, WHYY - NPR