Friedrich von Flotow Martha Lucia Popp Siegfried JerusalemFrederich von Flotow – Martha

CAST: Lady Harriet Durham (Martha): Lucia Popp, Nancy: Doris Soffel, Lord Tristan Mickleford: Siegmund Nimsgern, Lyonel: Siegfried Jerusalem, Plumkett: Karl Ridderbusch, Der Richter zu Richmond: Peter Lika, Drei Magde: Irmgard Lampert, Isolde Mitternacht, Gudrun Greindl-Rosner, Drei Diener der Lady: Georg Baumgartner, Theodor Nicolai, Wilfied Vorwold

Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunk
Münchner Rundfunkorchester
Heinz Wallberg, conductor

RCA, 1977

Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha, considered a “romantic comic” opera by the author himself, is the work by which the composer’s name is still remembered today. Performed for the first time in 1847, it mixes elements of the German Singspiel (for funny and rural people like Nancy and Plumkett) and of the French opéra-comique (for Martha and Lyonell) and is an adaptation of the ballet Harriette, ou la servante de Greenwiche, written by the same Flotow. The music is simply delicious and delicate and it is a pity that Martha is not represented more often.

In the present recording, it is the magnificent Lucia Popp who gives voice to the protagonist. A soprano with an angelic voice and solid technique, Popp shines in a role that seems written for her and allows her to show her natural grace and virtuosity, that stands out from the beginning in a lively duet with the mezzosoprano and where she already expresses the lively character of Martha (i.e. Lady Harriet). Her best moment, however, is the aria Der teuren zu vershönen, where, next to secure coloratura and magnificent high notes, the singer expressed with subtlety Martha’s love for Lyonel.

The tenor, at first rejected and then loved by Martha, is Siegfried Jerusalem, able to create a romantic character, who has his real moment of glory in Ach so fromm, the most famous piece in the opera. He sings with such a tenderness that do not make a poor figure next to performers of the calibre of Wunderlich or Gedda or, more recently, Kaufmann. Also in the rest of the opera the tenor sings with taste and elegance and is a great interpreter.

Nancy is the good Doris Soffel, who is Martha’s ideal companion in the duet that takes place at the very beginning of the opera, where she shows a beautiful mezzosoprano voice, secure in coloratura and expressive.

Bass Karl Ridderbusch is very good too. He has a dark and deep voice, beautiful vocal line and original phrasing and stands out for the fun (and amused, I would say) interpretation of the character.

Heinz Wallberg’s conduction in excellent and surrounds the singers with an idyllic and festive atmosphere. Mention of honour for the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunk, which has in Martha an important part and can be considered a character in every respect.

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