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Album Review

This is the third Victor Herbert operetta to be released by Albany Records based on a live performance by the Ohio Light Opera, which is associated with the University of Wooster. The opera lies somewhere between a college and a professional company, but its productions aim to revive and preserve Herbert's works of the early 20th century somewhat in the manner they were first presented on Broadway. As with the prior efforts, Naughty Marietta and The Red Mill, artistic director Steven Daigle has worked to re-create the shows as originally heard as much as possible, while making them accessible to contemporary audiences. In the case of Sweethearts, that has meant changing, by his estimate, 20 percent of the dialogue written by Harry B. Smith and Fred de Gresac, while keeping Herbert's music (in its original orchestrations) and Robert B. Smith's lyrics intact. A Broadway hit in 1913 starring Christie MacDonald (with revivals in 1929 and 1947) and a successful film (with a seriously altered plot) in 1938 starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, the show has had a good life, but this is the first full-length recording on CD. Daigle directs his principals to play the story broadly, which is only appropriate to a typically complicated operetta plot concerning a laundry woman who does not know she is really a princess. The dialogue keeps the listener clued in as much as is necessary, but what matters is the wonderful music. Suzanne Woods leads an excellent cast as Princess Sylvia, with Alta Boover making a strong impression in the comic role of Dame Paula, her adoptive mother, and Ben Smith equally amusing as the scheming, yet foppish Slingsby. All the actors sing well while never forgetting that operetta is intended to be foolish fun as well as musically engaging.

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Victor Herbert: Eileen, John Pickle
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