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Herbert: Naughty Marietta

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Album Review

This two-CD treatment of Victor Herbert's 1910 comic operetta Naughty Marietta produced by the Ohio Light Opera, the resident professional company of the College of Wooster, is billed as the first complete CD recording of the show that has been best known in modern times for the 1935 film starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, though it has long-since moved from its Broadway beginnings into the opera house. Naughty Marietta is also remembered for its popular songs, including "Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!," "Italian Street Song," "I'm Falling in Love With Someone," and "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life." The Ohio Light Opera recording embeds those and the show's other songs in an abridged version of the onstage production, complete with enough dialogue to follow the complicated plot. (The company's founder, James Stuart, reveals in a sleeve note that the full running time was "well under three hours," but the album runs well under two.) The setting is New Orleans, either in the mid-18th or early 19th centuries (it's not quite clear which), and the story involves an heiress on the run, a pirate, and other intriguing characters who engage in disguised identities while putting off the inevitable denouement when true love triumphs and evil is punished. Given that operetta is considered so moribund a form, the show plays surprisingly well, at least in part because of a director, Steven Daigle, who keeps things moving and a cast that gives the characters appropriately humorous portrayals while still soaring in the rangy musical numbers. As compared to a full-scale opera rendition, this one seems modestly staged, but it is probably closer to what the show sounded like on Broadway than most of the performances that have been heard since. (The live recording sometimes finds people far from the microphones, but everything is audible.)

Herbert: Naughty Marietta, Ohio Light Opera
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