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An Evening of Operetta at the Austrian Embassy

The Austrian Embassy hosted the popular Embassy Series with a program of works from operetta and opera. Though somewhat lighter in character, the performance Saturday evening involved much fine singing. Works of Johann Strauss, Jr., Gounod, Bizet, and Franz Lehár (among others) filled the program, with the works of Strauss (1825-1899) and Lehár (1870-1949) representative of the respective Golden and Silver ages of Viennese operetta (as indicated in the thorough program notes.)

Daniel Johannsen, tenor
Austrian tenor Daniel Johannsen best assumed the satiric roles. With a ringing voice, he sang with a natural flexibility in tempo, convincing facial expression, and textual nuance – even, according to a native concert-goer seated beside me, doing a number in dialect. Considering his prior training in church music and organ, one sensed a full comprehension of the orchestral parts (reductions), which allowed Johannsen to match his vocal line very well with the accompaniments. He carefully put forth the affect of longing on the repeated word “Komm” in “Komm in die Gondel” (Enter into the Gondola) from Strauss's Eine Nacht in Venedig (A Night in Venice). There was a collective sense of homesickness, by native and non-native Austrians alike, in Johannsen’s rendition of “Grüss mir mein Wien” (Greet my Vienna for me) from Gräfin Mariza (Countess Maritza) of Emmerich Kálmán (1882-1953).

American Soprano Amanda Gosier sang most impressively in “Csárdás” from Die Fledermaus. It was here that she seemed to really enjoy herself, which fixed earlier intonation problems and an overall hesitance to take the stage and embrace the audience. Gosier had an impressive ability to sing lightly in very high registers, though one might have wished for a wider, more open sound in louder moments.

At multiple points in the concert, Jerome Barry, Artistic Director of the Embassy Series, gave lengthy announcements about upcoming concerts. During the intermission, Barry had an eleven-year-old boy-soprano voice student of his sing Schubert (Ave Maria) and Handel (O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion) selections in a very mannered way – including hand gestures. The audience was very polite. Listeners later sweetly hummed along with the encore of the evening, which was another selection of Lehár.

The next concert from the Embassy Series is a recital by pianist Alexander Tselyakov (June 1, 8 pm) at the Embassy of Canada (501 Pennsylvania Avenue NW).

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