OK I’m not going to pretend that Johann Strauss’ Der Zigeunerbaron is profound or anything but it is kind of fun, especially when given the no holds barred Mörbisch Seefestspiele treatment. It’s a tale of mistaken identity and romance with some silly humour thrown in and lots of gypsies (complete with obligatory anvil chorus) and a hidden treasure. Heinz Marecek’s 2000 production is old fashioned spectacular with scads of dancers, galloping hussars and rather outlandish costumes all set on the large Mörbisch island stage and complete with a noisy and spectacular firework display at the start of Act 3. There are bonus pigs.
It gets played/sung in classic operetta manner too. The romantic lead, Sándor Bárinkay, is sung by Harrie van der Plas. He’s a pretty classic operetta tenor. He looks the part, has ringing high notes and has a bit of a strut about him. His love interest, Saffi (a princess brought up as a gypsy) is sung by Martina Serafin who has a lovely creamy lower register but kind of loses it the further she goes up the stave. Good actress thiough. There’s comic relief from Heinz Zednik as the pompous Conte Carnero, head of the Morals Authority, and Helmut Berger-Tuna as the pig breeder Kálmán Zsupán. Romana Noack is the pig guy’s feisty daughter Arsena. She has accurate coloratura and good comic timing. Maybe best of all is Brigittre Pinter as the old gypsy Czipra. It’s a lowish mezzo role which she sings solidly and with a real sense of the character. There are lots of waltzes and polkas and choreographer Georg Gesler marshals large numbers of rather good dancers impressively. Rudolf Bibl conducts but one suspects this orchestra could play Strauss pretty adequately without him.
The video direction by Anton Reitzenstein is pretty good, capturing the sense of the spectacular as well as the more intimate moments. Sound (Dolby 2.0) and picture (4:3) are no better than OK. The English subtitles are given in rhyming couplets to match the German and actually aren’t too cringe worthy. There are also French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish options.