Lehár (Die) Blaue Mazur, 'The Blue Mazurka'
Lehár loved to vary the geographical settings in his operettas, and Die blaue Mazur (“The Blue Mazurka”) was his tribute to Poland – expressed this time through Polish characters and customs, since the setting remains Vienna. It was one of his earlier post-First World War operettas – pre-Tauber, but from a time when he was already experimenting with more serious subjects. It concerns a newly married couple who split up on their wedding night when the groom realises that his playboy lifestyle has gone and the bride discovers the life he has previously led. In the end they’re reconciled, of course; but along the way the work follows an unusual structure. A lengthy first scene culminates in a 20-minute finale, followed by a short second scene from which the male lead is completely absent, and a second act (third scene) in which we finally hear the “Blue Mazurka” that gives the work its title.
The work was a hit in Vienna in 1920 and was produced in all the major operetta centres, including London. However, it soon disappeared from view – except in Italy, from where the most extensive previous recording appeared during the LP era. Now, thanks to Lehár’s publisher’s quest to get as much as possible of his music heard, we have this first complete recording. Most rewarding it is too. Act 2 especially has some gorgeous music in Lehár’s most erotic style (with solo violin and celesta), and there are typically sumptuous waltzes and a rousing march, as well as an opening polonaise, a gavotte and the title mazurka. The performance is extremely well done, with ringing soprano and tenor contributions from Johan Weigel and Johanna Stojkovich, and full-bodied orchestral and choral contributions under Frank Boermann. What is perhaps most lacking – for better or worse – is really contrasted delineation of the comedy pair (Gretl and Adolar), which would certainly have been a feature of the original production.
The distributors claim the work as “musically…one of [Lehár’s] greatest masterpieces”. I’m not sure I’d go so far; but it’s certainly very well worth acquiring by anyone who loves Lehár’s music.