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The dancers offered a witty operetta parody to the immortal 'Sirens of the Ball Waltzes' from The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar. Colorful costumes by Pavel Knolle added to the fun. Meditz and his musicians perfectly captured the music's honeyed schmaltz -- quintessential Lehar. Strauss's Wine, Women, and Song Waltzes Op 333 was Imperial Ballroom music -- danced with elegance and played with silvery beauty. (In the manner of Johann Strauss Jr, Meditz played his violin while leading the ensemble.)

Soprano Elisabeth Freundlinger was a lively presence and was hilariously funny in the 'Schwipslied' from A Night in Venice by Johann Strauss Jr. She played it to the hilt as an over-inebriated soprano trying to sing in an operetta. Her smallish soprano voice did not have the coloratura roulades or high Cs for Strauss's 'Voices of Spring Waltzes' Op 410. Austrian baritone Benno Schollum was the real thing -- a sweet toned operetta baritone with total ease of delivery and style aplenty. The audience loved him and for good reason. Schollum sang 'Gruss mir mein Wien' from Countess Maritza by Emmerich Kalman with suave warmth. In 'Dunkelrote Rosen' from Gasparone by Karl Millocker, his melting tones and stylish elegance were a delight. Freundlinger and Schollum blended nicely on the eternal Wien, Wien nur du Allein by Rudolph Sieczynski (a mini Viennese anthem).

A Viennese New Year's concert is never complete without encores. Freundlinger and Schollum sang an operetta waltz by Robert Stolz (the last of Vienna's waltz kings) with full throated panache. Strauss's On the Beautiful Blue Danube got lilting treatment from conductor Meditz (on the violin) and company. The Radetsky March by Johann Strauss Sr was played rousingly by the orchestra with the audience clapping in time to the music. Freundlinger, Schollum, and the dancers joined conductor, orchestra, and audience in singing Auld Lang Syne -- the perfect New Year's greeting.

The music of these Viennese masters is delightful. It was a pleasure to hear performances of such idiomatic authority by an expert conductor -- a great way to say Happy New Year!

Copyright © 8 January 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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