Friday, July 10, 2015
Zirkusprinzessin (Circus Princess)
Hallstein with "Mr. X" (Rudolf Schock)
The initial encounter. Rudolf Schock is a lucky man
I was particularly pleased to get a copy of this operetta, as the leading lady is none other than the elegantly beautiful Bavarian Kammersängerin, Ingeborg Hallstein -- an angel with an angel's voice. Maybe I'm a bit maudlin but I think she is the most beautiful lady ever in opera/operetta.
I thought in this show she looked younger than in Wiener Blut and I was right -- sort of. Zirkusprinzessin was recorded in 1969 and Wiener Blut in 1971. But those two years made a difference IMHO. She conveyed much more of an image of sophistication in Wiener Blut. But that was a more sophisticated role of course. It's not often that a lady says she likes to hear that her husband is attractive to other women.
But her facial expressions in Zirkusprinzessin as she pinged off the repulsive "Prince Sergius" were solid gold. It was wonderful to see her in action. As the Prince said when she had finished her little speech: "Das war deutlich" ("that was clear").
And I liked the dramatic faces of Hallstein when she was watching the final act of the show. I thought she looked most beautiful at that point -- though whether that says something sad about me, I don't know.
Amusing that she wore her hair in the same uplifted style in both shows, complete with stars in it. But it meant that full attention was on her face -- and it is a face worth looking at.
And at the risk of sounding ridiculous, I greatly admired the hat she wore when she arrived in Vienna from Petersburg. It was very elegant and flattering IMHO. Her other hats were good too. Congratulations to the costume department, I guess.
Something I have not seen elsewhere is any comment on her speaking voice. It was marvellously feminine: Breathy, low-pitched. I'm out of words after that. I actually think she was at a peak of feminine beauty in this show, not at all like the gross Kardashians (and their emulators) of the current era. The Kardashians actually seem FAT to me. There! Can I utter any greater scorn than that? So it is a wonderful thing that this show from 1969 has been preserved.
Some details about Hallstein from Wikipedia:
"Ingeborg Hallstein (born 23 May 1936 in Munich) is a German operatic coloratura soprano famed for the purity and range of her voice, which extended from the G-sharp below middle C to the B-flat more than three octaves above it.
For her great services, among other things to the young talents, the Bayerische Kammersängerin received the Federal Cross of Merit in 1979, that order's First Class in 1996, and the Bavarian Order of Merit in 1999".
I hope it is not churlish of me to mention it but the suspension of belief that one needs for operetta was rather stretched by the trapeze artist jumping from high up in the tent onto the back of a horse. It was quite mad as far as I can see. A man doing so would surely crunch his balls and break the back of the horse. It did however make good drama.
There were a few jokes in it but not many. The second string story did good service there, though -- with the Pelikan scenes being quite hilarious at times. But the Hungarian dialogue there stumped me. I can make some sort of a fist of understanding most European languages but Hungarian and Finnish are in a world of their own. Kalman does seem to put bits of Magyar (his native language) into his shows for no obvious reason. Maybe the fact that NOBODY outside the Hungarian lands is remotely interested in Magyar bothered him. His intervention did no good, however.
And I did learn something amusing from "Toni", the second string romantic. He described the dancing ladies he admired as having "marzipan legs". I would never have thought of that one. Presumably he meant white.
I am not the first to note that Kalman stole the plot for Zirkusprinzessin from Millocker's Bettelstudent of 40 years previously. But operettas do a lot of borrowing from one another so that is not too remarkable.
The wedding ceremony
An amusing thing about the English subtitles: Towards the end of the show, the German word Lust was translated as "lust" -- which sounded quite jarring in the circumstances. The German word means "pleasure" or "enjoyment" or some such. The translator's lot is not a happy one (to misquote Gilbert & Sullivan) but that was a real boo-boo. A common one, however.
I am also a bit critical of the way Durchlauch/ Durchlaucht was translated. It was at times translated as "Your Serene Highness", which is indeed its expanded meaning, but Durchlaucht is an abbreviation of that, so a translation as simply "Highness" would have been more usual. But German has two words for "Highness", Hoheit being the other, so it is another case where there is no perfect translation. Hoheit is a more elevated rank than Durchlauch.
A complication is that the same person can be addressed both as Durchlauch and Hoheit. The original distinction seems to have faded and left Hoheit as simply a polite form of address to anyone of Graf status or above and Durchlauch as the common form of address for the same people. Since the Russian aristocracy was allegedly involved, Gospodina might have been considered in this case
Mind you, referring to Hallstein as Serene Highness is not unreasonable. She does indeed come across as serene -- completely delectable, in fact.
"Highness" is the English equivalent of Hoheit but usage of "Highness" is much more limited. Only the Queen can bestow that appellation in England.
There were enough machinations for grand opera but everybody ended up alive and happy, of course, in proper operetta style. Certainly a great romance.
And the sub-plot ended up well too, with the aid of some amazing co-incidence! You do usually have two or more happy endings in an operetta and that was delivered.
It was a great show with lots happening and some implausible love at first sight. But love at first sight is a staple of operetta, of course. There was much drama and it did get me in. I was feeling a bit teary at the end.
The operettas I watch are mostly cinematic versions made for West German TV in the late '60s and mid '70s so I do tend to see the same actors and actresses over and over again. So I knew well that Wirtin Schlumberger was played by someone I had seen elsewhere. I could NOT bring it to mind where and when, however, so I had to look up the filmography of "Jane Tilden", who played the part. I saw her previously as Stasa Kokozow in Graf von Luxemburg
A small technical point. I watched the show at first on a big modern flat-screen TV and it looked fine. But then I re-watched it on my small, old-fashioned bedside monitor -- a 19" RGB CRT monitor. And it looked much better on the RGB monitor. Why? Easy peasy. My RGB monitor is a CRT relic of the '70s. My RGB monitor was exactly the sort of monitor the show was recorded for in 1969.
So: Products of the past work best on the technology of the past: Another reason for preserving the technology of the past. And I do put my money where my mouth is. I have quite a lot of Amiga 500 and Atari ST games gear salted away in various cupboards -- in the form of the old 3.5 inch disks.
You can of course play all that stuff on emulators now but my son Joe is a games freak and he tells me that the emulators don't do all the old sounds well. Amiga sound was miles ahead of anything else at the time. It still sounds good. Joe has reminded me that the rather good Amiga game "Loom" of the 1980s used excerpts from the "Swan Lake" ballet by Tchaikovsky in its theme music. I always liked the sounds of "Loom" -- while the kids were playing it in my life of long ago.
For Hallstein admirers: Below is a clip from a B&W show that is no longer available in full anywhere. It features a young Hallstein. You don't need to understand the words to understand what is going on but in case: The repeated adjuration translates as: "Come with me into a private booth". As various people have commented: "The lucky devil even ends up getting a kiss from Hallstein"