Ackermann’s mono recording of The Land of Smiles is available above EMI, coupled with The Merry Widow. Naxos offer it separately, together with a generous collection of Léhar arias sung by a galaxy of great operetta singers from the past. Mark Obert-Thorn’s transfer is every bit as good as EMI’s, but it cannot disguise the orchestral thinness in the long (too long) overture; but the voices come up well and (praise be!) the dialogue is all separately cued. Schwarzkopf not only sings delightfully in the main work but also contributes in 1939 (alongside the stirring Rupert Glawitsch) to excerpts from Paganini and (in 1940) Das Land des Lächelns, where the voice sounds young and sweet, almost soubrettish. Other highlights are provided by heady tenor contributions from Leonardo Aramesco and Marcel Wittrich, almost trumped by Helge Rosvaenge in Giuditta and the delightful soprano Irene Eisinger in Der Fürst der Berge. But all these singers have something very special about their vocal personalities which conjures up a past era, and Ward Marston’s faithful transfers show just how good were the original masters.
One can buy this famous Schwarzkopf recording on EMI differently coupled, but if Naxos’s coupling of historic Lehar recordings appeals, this is a superb set. From the outset of the overture the considerable beauty of the analogue sound is gloriously revealed; there is no hint that Mark Obert-Thorn was working from LP’s, and his transfers give the voices a seductive bloom. no transfer engineer can alter the fussy, uneven singing of Schwarzkopf, which contrasts so pointedly with Nicolai Gedda’s elegant legato, but Schwarzkopf has many more admirers than dissenters; they at least will be content. More to the point and unfailingly idiomatic are Emmy Loose as Mi and Erich Kunz as Gustl. There are a few more infectious operetta recordings and the 16 tracks of mainly pre-war records is highly enjoyable.