- Das Land des Lächelns (The Land of Smiles), operetta in 3 acts (revision of "Die gelbe Jacke")
This recording of Franz Lehár's "Das Land des Lächelns" (The Land of Smiles) is a part of a series of recorded operettas presented by Seefestspiele Mörbisch, or in English, The Mörbisch Lake Festival, on the Oehms Classics label. This 2002 recording is made in a studio environment and is very clear, direct, and immediate. Although "Das Land des Lächelns" is unlikely to overtake the popularity of "Die Lüstige Wittwe" in Lehár's canon of operetta, the work is unusual among late-period Viennese operettas in that it has never lacked for good recordings. Premiered concurrently with the dawn of talking pictures, "Das Land des Lächelns" was almost immediately made into an early sound film featuring the star who made it a hit in Vienna, Richard Tauber. Tauber set the bar very high in the role of Prinz Sou Chong, which was written for him, and even if his recordings of the work fit into the historical category; subsequent, more modern recordings of "Das Land des Lächelns" have been of sufficient quality as to make the going tough for newcomers. Unfortunately the Seefestspiele Mörbisch recording really isn't in the top class; there are several points in the operetta where the music seems to have trouble getting off the ground, although all of the instrumental music in the operetta is delivered nicely by the Festival Orchestra Mörbisch under Rudolph Bibl. Tenor Sangho Choi sings the notes in Tauber's part of Prinz Sou Chong without conveying any of Tauber's warmth or charm. The principal female roles of Lisa and Mi, here taken by Elisabeth Flechl and Yuko Mitani, are compromised by both sopranos' tendency to sing somewhat sharp. For those who love "Das Land des Lächelns" and don't mind owning several recordings of it, want to hear how the Seefestspiele Mörbisch sounds in the piece, or just need a good recording of the instrumental segments, then this Oehms Classics recording is a safe bet. If one is looking for "Das Land des Lächelns" in general, however, be aware that there are viable options out there apart from this one that may satisfy that need more fittingly.