This CD reissue combines two studio recordings of operettas made decades after their stage premieres. The Merry Widow brought in a trend of operettas in the 1900s, opening in Vienna in 1905 and coming to Broadway in 1907. There had been various recordings of excerpts from it before 1943, when Decca Records, shortly after having begun the trend for original Broadway cast recordings, put a group of singers, an orchestra, and a chorus into the studio to record an album-length version for the first time. Kitty Carlisle, hired to play the title character, had persuaded Decca head Jack Kapp to undertake the recording by sending him her notices in a Boston production. Kapp brought in Wilbur Evans, who had also been in the show in Boston, and Lisette Verea, who had just been in a Broadway revival. The result was an excellent recording of 12 tracks from the score. More than six years later, a new regime at Decca commissioned a studio-cast recording of The Student Prince more than a quarter-century after its first Broadway production, probably because rival labels Columbia, RCA Victor, and Mercury all had versions in their catalogs already, and because veteran opera singer Lauritz Melchior, who had just turned 60 and recently retired from the opera stage, was available. On record, it didn't matter that Melchior was a little long in the tooth to be playing a college student, and he proved himself to be in excellent voice. The Merry Widow was released originally on 78s in 1945, and The Student Prince as a ten-inch LP in 1950, and both were out of print for a long time before this reissue, which may have been prompted by unauthorized CD versions that have inferior sound quality. Here, the sound has been improved considerably, and the freshness of the performances is newly apparent.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow), operetta|
|The Student Prince, operetta|