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(The Bartered Bride)

Jarmila Novotná, Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender; Orphüls, dir. (1932). In German, no subtitles. 76m. plus The Last Waltz (1935). In English. 73m. Novotná, music by O. Straus. Both B&W
PAL VHS only


“The Smetana, directed by the renowned Max Ophüls, transmogrifies the plot into a poetic, wonderfully moving film-with-music featuring Novotná and the magnificent baritone Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender. It is Domgraf-Fassbaender’s rich, open and warm-hearted voice which, along with the director Ophüls’s liberal imagination (akin to Max Reinhardt’s Hollywood film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream), steals the show. Fans of Novotná will certainly want to watch these over and over again while fans of the filmmaker’s art will probably derive even more pleasure from the Bride than will purely opera connoisseurs.”–H&B Directory

Alan Blyth, reviewing in Gramophone

“Two works featuring the young and comely Jarmila Novotná are films accompanied by music that adapt the respective scores by Smetana and Oscar Straus to a director’s whim. In the case of The Bartered Bride the revered Ophuls, in one of his first movies, provides a very free version of the original but makes the result amenable by virtue of his wit, the screen peopled with quaint characters. Novotná looks lovely and sings sweetly.”

Jarmila Novotná (1907-1994) began her operatic career as Violetta in Prague in 1926. She reached stardom in Verona, Berlin and Vienna before she was 25 and in Rome, Milan, Paris, Florence and Salzburg before 30. In 1940 she debuted at the Met, as Mimì, and this became her artistic home until her retirement in 1957. At the Met she sang 205 performances of 14 roles, most memorably Donna Elvira, Cherubino, Octavian, Pamina and Orlofsky. She starred in German, English and American films, both musicals and dramas, and created the title role in Lehár’s Giuditta, at the Vienna State Opera, in 1934.

Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender (1897-1978) made his debut in 1922, in Aachen, as Count Almaviva, and arrived at the Berlin State Opera in 1926, where he remained through 1946. From 1934-37 he was perhaps the most distinguished star of the initial Glyndebourne seasons, also performing at Salzburg and in Italy and France during this time. Starting in 1932 he appeared in several German film versions of operas, including Le nozze di Figaro, sung in German (Video #94). After the war he performed in Hanover, Munich and Vienna but retired from singing by age 50. He became involved in the management of the Nuremburg Opera. His daughter Brigitte Fassbaender is among the most famous mezzos of our time.

Harry Welchman (1886-1966), pretty much forgotten today, from the late teens through the mid-30s was the creator of stalwart baritone leads in the first English productions of several Romberg and Friml operettas, most notably The Red Shadow in The Desert Song.

Max Ophüls (1902-1957) originally was a prolific stage director in Germany and Austria, coming to films in 1932. Famous for the fluidity of his camerawork and the overall baroque texture of many of his films, he is most known for La Ronde and Lola Montés.Joe Pearce, President of The Vocal Record Collector’s Society