It is interesting to note that Victor Herbert’s “The Fortune Teller” opened in 1898, only two years after Gilbert & Sullivan’s last collaboration, “The Grand Duke.” In the latter work, one man finds himself engaged to four women; in the former one woman finds herself engaged to three men. Even Herbert’s music in “Fortune Teller” sounds similar to parts of “Grand Duke.” But in the world of musical theatre, such things are bound to happen.
The Ohio Light Opera has a long series of operatic recordings, to which “The Fortune Teller” is the latest entry. It is available in a 2-CD set from Albany Records. The book and lyrics by Henry B. Smith tell the story of a Gypsy named Musette who is a dead ringer for the prima ballerina of the Budapest Opera, Irma (both roles sung here by Amy Maples).
The penniless Count Berezowski (Logan Walsh) wants to marry Irma because of her bracelet (just accept that for now), but Musette poses as Irma and winds up engaged to him while Irma disguises herself as her twin brother Fedor, lest he be charged with desertion. (I am not making this up!) At any rate, the dialogue is included in both the recording and booklet and can be cheerfully ignored.
More than one Herbert tune does not quite make it, such as the military choruses, which suffer by comparison with Sullivan’s march in “Patience.” But two melodies have often been sung out of context on collections of Herbert’s songs: “Romany life,” which celebrates the Gypsy world outlook, and the hauntingly beautiful “Gypsy love song,” which is sung to entice Musette into staying with her people.
In fact, I have grown so used to hearing sopranos and mezzos sing the latter that I was surprised to find it is a man, Sandor (David Kelleher-Flight), who is assigned this gem.
Although one or two of the men read their lines in that “this is an operetta” lilt, the silly plot can stand that treatment, while the other musical pieces range from pretty good to exquisite.
And I am assured by John Ostendorf, the Recording Producer, that the dialogue is found in the original script though it is highly abridged.
Finally, Conductor Steven Byess leads singers and orchestra with brio. Good work all around.