The Austrian composer Franz von Suppe (1819-1895) is best known for his four dozen light operas, though the majority of his works have sunk into relative obscurity. His overtures, however, survive and are often heard in soundtracks for films, cartoons, and ads, as well as symphonic “pops” concerts.
Die Afrikareise (Die Africa Trip, 1893), a comedy operetta about people with false identities who travel to Egypt, is a good example of his work. It begins in Cairo with an unpaid hotel bill and a Pasha who has inadvertently given himself poison.
Its plot isn’t entirely original, but it is full of the kind of witty and attractive music that Suppe is renowned for. In particular, the OvertureBoccaccio, which ends this recording with a rather Straussian Boccaccio March, is a joyous piece.
A number of Suppe’s other light operas feature plots with a pointed social character, such as Ganymede and Galatea and Fatinitza. It is these works that are most distinguished by their wit, virtuosity, and fine lyricism.
Another popular operetta is Donna Juanita, set in the aftermath of the revolution of 1848 and devoted to the people’s struggle for liberation. Its orchestral writing is vibrant, its harmonies bright, and the melody sung by the heroine is exquisite.
This 2022 recording is by Dario Salvi, who has used his experience as a conductor and researcher to recreate lost works of the Viennese 19th-century stage, including reinstating this overture.
Overtures are a staple of Suppe’s repertoire and here is a typical example, one that combines the structure and focus that he so loved to bring. It has a lot in common with the famous Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna, but it is also quite Rossini-like at times, as Jarvi points out.
Throughout his career, Suppe also wrote a series of light operas, many of which feature military plots but with comic themes. In addition, he had a great interest in Viennese folklore and incorporated it into his compositions.
His music is largely derived from Italian and French operatic traditions, but he draws heavily on local Viennese folklore. This is clear in his most successful operettas, such as Ganymede and Galatea, Fatinitza, and Boccaccio.
Suppe is also credited with the development of the “Bavarian” style of a light operetta. Its lyricism, rhythmic drive, and melodic appeal are much more modern than the earlier style of opéra-comique. It is also more influenced by Viennese music than the French classical opera as represented by Offenbach. Sommersuppe