ADAM: Le Postillon de Longjumeau

How is it even possible that in the nineties this charming masterpiece was still performed in
German in stead of the original language? For a simple and worthy reason. Decades after its
disappearance in France, the opera still had a respectable career in the German-speaking
countries where it was considered as another successful Spieloper — a good competitor in the
public’s favour of the operas of Lortzing, Nicolai or Flotow. The great recordings of the opera’s
hit ‘Mes amis, écoutez l’histoire’ were made in German by Joseph Schmidt, Helge Rosvaenge
and Josef Traxel. In 1962 Sender Freies Berlin produced a fine TV-version with John van
Kesteren and Stina-Britta Melander. Finally, 20 years ago, a complete French recording appeared
with June Anderson and John Aler. Therefore, does this EMI-recording make the radio broadcast
redundant as it is sung in the original version, has a lot of dialogue lacking in the radio broadcast
and most important of it all, is complete. In the radio recording under review there are some
traditional cuts in the second act — all in all some 12 minutes of music mostly for the tenor.
These are weighty arguments against this German version.

On the other hand, Le Postillon de Longjumeau survived due to the chances it offers to singers
with ringing delivery and charm; and it is here this version has the upper hand. Tenor Robert
Swensen has it all — good high notes, vocal heft, a sense of style — while EMI’s John Aler with
his light-weight voice and his white timbre is no match for him or the role. Pamela Coburn has
probably half the voice of June Anderson, is less agile in her coloratura and still sounds more
convincing. She had a long career in German theatres and her German delivery is more
believable than Anderson’s French one. Moreover, she performed in operettas by Lehar and
Strauss, which are nearer to Adam than Anderson’s Normas or Elviras. There is a lightness of
touch with Coburn that is lacking in Anderson’s far more Italian delivery style. And as Le
Postillon de Longjumeau
is almost one long sequence of tenor and soprano arias and duets, the
vocal results might outweigh other considerations. The smaller part singers are fine too, though
indeed Jean-Philippe Lafont on EMI is superior over Capriccio’s Peter Lika (who doesn’t
disappoint however). The German Radio Orchestra plays well and is conducted with ‘Schwung’
by Klaus Arp. In this kind of music radio orchestras, due to their versatility and their outings in
the lighter repertoire are often to be preferred over their all too serious and better known
symphonic competitors. So the choice is up to the individual collector’s preference; but this is a
version not to be dismissed.

Jan Neckers

image_description=Adolphe Adam: Le Postillon de Longjumeau
product_title=Adolphe Adam: Le Postillon de Longjumeau
product_by=Robert Swensen (Chapelou), Pamela Coburn (Madeleine), Peter Lika (Bijou), Florian Prey (Marquis de Corcy), Jürgen Linn (Bourdon). Rundfunkorchester des SWF Kaiserslautern conducted by Klaus Arp. Recorded 1th of October 1992.
product_id=Capriccio 51 180 [2CDs]