|About this Recording
8.660268-69 - STRAUSS II, J.: Nacht in Venedig (Eine) (Buckard, Gylbert, Stockholm Strauss Orchestra, Eichenholz)
Johann Strauss II (1825–1899)
Operetta in Three Acts
Guido, Herzog von Urbino (The Duke) - Daniel Buckard, Tenor
Stockholm Strauss Orchestra
After the great success in 1881 of his eighth operetta Der lustige Krieg (The Merry War), Strauss wanted a new libretto set in Italy with a finale in St Mark’s Square in Venice. The librettists Camillo Walzel (pseudonym: F. Zell) and Richard Genée presented Strauss with a story entitled Venetian Nights, set in the mid-eighteenth century. The story appealed to the composer’s fondness for practical jokes. The message behind the plot was that men might try to dupe women, but the women will prove to be too sharp in the end. Strauss began to compose the operetta at once and it became one of his four greatest successes. Unfortunately, unbeknown to Strauss, the story had been copied from a French play, and this almost created a scandal before the operetta even had its first performance. Instead, however, Strauss’s first theatrical scandal occurred during the actual première.
His second wife, Lili, had just left him and was living with Franz Steiner, the director for the Theater an der Wien, the theatre for which every Strauss operetta, with the exception of Prinz Methusalem, was written. Strauss then decided to give the very first performance to the Strauss-friendly theatre, Neues Friedrich Wilhelm Städtisches Theater, in Berlin. The première, which was given on 3 October 1883, was conducted by Strauss himself and everything ran perfectly until the third act, when the Duke sings in the Lagunen Walzer: ‘By night all cats look grey, and fondly are singing meow …’ Some of the audience members began to sing ‘meow’ and the composer was upset for a moment.
Six days later, on 9 October the operetta was performed at the Theater an der Wien. For this performance, Strauss had shortened some bars in the overture and Franz von Gernerth, with Genée, had written a new text for the Lagoon-Waltz. The new text, now sung by Caramello, was not much better, but at least it did not include the word ‘meow’. Camillo Walzel also shortened the dialogue. From that day onward Eine Nacht in Venedig became a success on stages around the world.
In 1929 Johann Strauss’s music was no longer protected by copyright. Long before this, publishers had stopped selling his works in their original versions. A Night in Venice was, like other operettas, arranged by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1923) and presented by the publisher, A. Cranz, including a piece from the operetta Simplicius, under a new copyright. For more than fifty years, this altered fuller orchestration by Korngold was nearly the only one performed. The autograph score currently belongs to Stanford University in the United States. On the first page Strauss has written: “To my dear brother-in-law, Josef Simon, as a bound stack of toilet-paper. Hope it goes down well!”
This live recording of Strauss’s Eine Nacht in Venedig is taken from the original version (Vienna, 1883), published in score by Doblinger in 1970. We have made, however, a few small cuts in order to allow the artists to leave the stage during the performance: 1) string accompaniment to the dialogue in No 6b; 2) 29 bars in No. 8a (Melodram); 3) the first repeat of 17a (Aufzugsmarsch) in No 8b; 4) 58 bars (Melodram) in Finale 3. We have also omitted the guitar (73 bars in Finale 1) and the two zithers (16 bars) in Finale 3. This performance was given in collaboration with the University College of Opera in Stockholm. The rôles of Delaqua, Annina, Ciboletta and Agricola were shared severally by the soprano soloists. Freed from its spoken dialogue, Eine Nacht in Venedig provides sparkling music from start to finish.
Act 1: An open space with a macaroni stall in front of the Rialto Bridge.
The Duke of Urbino is expected to arrive in Venice. He will take part in the carnival and see to the running of his palace in Venice, appointing a palace administrator. He also plans to seduce Barbara, the most beautiful woman in town. He had met her at a masquerade the year before, but never saw her face. Of course he will perform this feat at a magnificent festival at his palace.
The Duke sends his barber, Caramello, ahead to distribute invitations to the festival and hire a gondola for the abduction of Lady Barbara, if this should prove necessary. Caramello, however, has an old girl-friend in Venice, the fish-girl Annina. He spends his time with her and instead gives the invitation cards to his friend, the spaghetti cook Pappacoda. As a result, tailors, bakers, porters, washer-women and maids are invited to the festival, not the social elite. They agree not to dress up; it will be assumed that they already are in costume. Pappacoda also has a girl-friend, Ciboletta, who is a lady’s maid for old Senator Delaqua and his young wife Barbara. Ciboletta is also a friend of Annina. Pappacoda is happy with his life as a bachelor and blames his wish to remain unmarried on the fact that he does not have steady income.
The whole town knows about the Duke’s interest in women, and upon the Duke’s arrival, he informs the three senators that he expects them to attend the festival with their wives. Unfortunately all the wives seem to fall ill. So the Duke asks Caramello to pick up Barbara at night when it is dark. Just to be safe, Senator Delaqua arranges to send his wife by gondola to her aunt on Murano Island, even though he is also anxious to satisfy the Duke so he may receive the appointment of palace administrator. Therefore he asks Ciboletta to accompany him to the festival as his wife, pay attention to the Duke and perhaps even ask the Duke to give the appointment to Delaqua.
This evening also happens to be Delaqua’s birthday, and the other guests crowd around him singing so he cannot see what his wife is doing. Of course he is not aware of this and is deeply moved by the music of the guests. The women, on the other hand, have made other plans for the evening. Barbara does not intend to go to stay with her aunt. She has planned to meet a young man, Enrico. She asks her nurse and friend, Annina, to take her place on the gondola that will be arranged by Caramello.
Act 2: At the Duke’s palace.
The evening’s events have meant that Caramello unknowingly delivers his own girl-friend to the Duke’s palace. He realises his mistake too late and Annina enjoys making him jealous. The Duke welcomes the beautiful lady and brings her to the apartment for supper, convinced that she is Barbara. Delaqua appears, presenting Ciboletta as his wife. The confused Duke suddenly has two ladies called Barbara at the table. He intends to find out which of them is the real one. Ciboletta then asks the Duke for the appointment, not as administrator but as a court cook. She, of course, is planning for herself and Pappacoda.
The two jealous men, Caramello and Pappacoda, create several opportunities to interrupt the Duke in his apartment. In the meantime the Duke’s other guests are eating, dancing and celebrating in the palace. Another senator’s wife, Agricola, and a crowd of swarthy, ugly ladies, appear to pay their respects to the Duke, singing that they are not at all concerned about the rumour that the Duke is a lady-killer.
Suddenly the bells from the Church of San Marco ring out. It is time for everybody to enter the square and remove their masks.
Act 3: In St Mark’s Square.
The Duke has not achieved what he wanted, but he enjoys the practical joke and appoints Pappacoda as the court cook and Caramello as the palace administrator. The turbulent night is over and at the very least the women have got what they wanted.
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