VON SUPPÉ:  Die sch–ne GalathÈe
Andrea Bogner, soprano (GalathÈe); Hans-Jürg Rickenbacher, tenor (Pygmalion); Juliane Heyn, soprano (Ganymed); Michael Kupfer, baritone (Mydas); Chor des Theaters der Stadt Koblenz/Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonic/ Thomas Eitler, cond.

CPO 999 726 (F) (DDD) TT:  48:42

Franz von SuppÈ (1819-1895) called Die sch–ne GalathÈe (The Beautiful Galathea) "a comic mythological opera in one act."  Premiered September 9, 1865 at the Carl-Theater in Vienna, it was a major work in the new "golden age of operetta" in Vienna, competing with works by Johann Strauss and Jacques Offenbach. The libretto is by the composer together with the actor, director and stage writer Poly Henrion, going back in its basic outline to the story of Pygmalion first told in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The sculptor falls in love with an ivory statue of his own fashioning. Venus grants Pygmalion his wish by bringing the statue to life. SuppÈ adds  two characters  Ganymede, Zeus's handsome cupbearer, who in eternal youth serves at the table of the gods (a trouser role), and King Midas, as rich as he is stupid, who has the power to turn anything he touches into gold, providing ample opportunity for social satire.

Following the overture, the ten musical excerpts (which include themes from the overture) include an aria by Ganymede in praise of sleep, Mydas' singing of what a wonderful man he is, a display aria for Galathea who is bored with Pygmalion, a vaudeville song and a rousing drinking song, ending as Galathea is turned back into stone and bought by Mydas.

The performance is superb—all four principals seem ideal.  The "Rheinische Philharmonie Staatsorchester" is a rather small group, but they have been resonantly recorded. One might question why cpo decided to issue this single CD in a double box—it takes up quite a bit of space on the shelf but it does make it possible to include a rather thick booklet (in three languages) with a complete libretto. The recording includes only musical parts of the score; there are many pages of spoken dialogue included in the libretto not on the recording—and these are not so indicated, which might lead to a bit of confusion.  These are minor concerns in an otherwise first-class issue.

R.E.B. (May 2001)