Johann Strauss, Jr. was plagued with frustrating failure in his attempts to repeat the runaway success of Fledermaus, and out of many works, only the Gypsy Baron comes close to that masterpiece -- but not that close. It's burdened by a libretto that leans hevily on local color and pasant humor that quickly wears thin. The drama also suffers from slow pacing -- our heroine Saffi, the Schwarzkopf role, doesn't appear until well into the first act. For these reasons, the operetta doesn't hold the stage outside Austria and Hungary. We are left to enjoy the lovely Strauss tunes, most of them assigned to the chorus and the gypsy baron himself, sung beautifully here by Nicolai Gedda.
This 1954 production, in reasonable mono sound, features EMI's platinum casting from top to bottom. None of the singers is anything less than admirable, and Schwarzkopf, as always, lifts the proceedings to a higher level of musical sophistication whenever she takes center stage. I can't summon as much enthusiasm as I'd like, however, and I lay the blame with Ackermann, whose conducting is knowing and proficient but no better -- where's the infectious high spirits that Strauss's operettas demand? In other words, this is a performance to admire more than love. Before investing in the latest reissue, I'd check out the earlier one, which sounds good and sells cheap at Amazon Marketplace. Better still, I'd seek out Clemens Krauss's classic reading, which circulates in rather fuzzy mono on several labels. It has a more gemutlich Viennese feeling and features great operetta singers like Julius Patzak and Emmy Loose.