Giuditta (Franz Lehár): Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert
A little operetta for a change. „Giudittta“, Lehár´s last operetta had its world premiere at the Vienna State Opera on January 20 1934, after Clemens Krauss, then director and reluctant to have a Lehár-operetta premiered at his opera house, had finally given in. The cast featured the both dashing and refined Jarmila Novotna in the title role and Richard Tauber as Octavio.
Octavio´s aria: Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert!
Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert!
Jeder Tag kann Schönes uns geben,
Jeder Tag ein neues Erleben,
Jede Stunde verjüngt sich die Welt!
Die herrliche Welt!
Sinkt die Sonne abends nieder,
Strahlend steht sie morgen wieder
Auf dem blauen Himmelszelt!
Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert!
Aus dem Dunkel stiller Gassen
Leuchten Augen, heiß wie Feuer,
Locken tausend Abenteuer
O Signora – o Signorina!
Hört man flüstern und liebkosen,
Dort vom Fenster des Palazzo
Fallen dunkelrote Rosen!
O Signora, Signorina,
Zärtlich klingt die Cavatina,
Und die Schönste aller Frauen
Wird vielleicht noch heute dein!
Whenever you drop the name Wunderlich in German speaking countries (and not only), you will find people close their eyes for a moment, then emit a melancolic sigh towards heaven… Few singers have been mistyfied like this singer, who is hailed THE German tenor of the past century and whose premature death has contributed to the myth that has been created around him. For many it is the most beautiful tenor voice ever. True – the timbre is one in a million and Wunderlich´s voice was an enourmously blessed one – but, if I may say so – I always found him a bit less excellent as a SINGER and even more so as a stylist. He was the „Naturbursche“ par excellence. And he sang everything with „naturalezza“. Great commitment, great dedication, a „natural“ and unaffected approach. And the public loved him for it. But whether he sings Mozart, Verdi or Lehár – everything sounds like Puccini. His technique was sufficient but not overly excellent. It was alright for Mozart and the more lyric repertory, but I am almost sure, that the voice would have suffered had he sung the more spinto roles like this. At least in this aspect, Beczala certainly resembles him a LOT…
If you listen attentively you can hear small hints of strain and over-spanning in Octavio´s aria which partially has an uncomfortable tessitura (especially if you sing out fully throughout the registers like he does). „Strahlend steht sie morgen wieder“ and „Auf dem blauen Himmelszelt!“ and at the end “und die schönste aller Frauen wird vielleicht noch heute mein! Das Leben ist schön, so schön!“ may not sound exactly strained, but uncomfortable and not perfectly focussed. Wunderlich mainly sings out fully, relying on the charm of his voice and pouring it out generously, whereas Tauber is much more the nuanced singer.
Tauber was not exactly blessed by mother nature: a short top, weak low notes, but a beautiful middle register. The timbre was not beautiful by nature, but he MADE it sound beautiful. He keeps the voice slim and focussed throughout the tessitura, opening just here and there for more sound and ring. Never does he sound forced, always perfectly controlled, balanced and on the breath – but not calculated. A little portamento here and there, but he does not exaggerate it. Beautiful modulations in „sinkt die Sonne abends nieder, strahlend steht sie morgen wieder auf dem blauen Himmelszelt!“ “savouring” the words much more than Wunderlich. Little accents, but not over emphasizing on „jeder Tag ein neues Erleben“ and „Augen heiss wie Feuer“ and “die herrliche Welt”. Listen to the great and expert timing of „o signora, o signorina“. Lingering just a little on „WENN vom Fenster des Palazzo“. In the repeat of „wenn vom Fenster des Palazzo“ he varies a little giving more volume for the final „das Leben ist schön, so schön!“ but not sounding at all strained (though he tends to discolor the vowels on the high notes at times).
One can perfectly understand Lehár, who relied on Tauber on every possible occasion to refine his music. To me, Tauber is and remains one of the singers, who conveys the very essence of vocal charm. What an artist.