Around the World with Franz von Suppe

Jules Verne’s novel “Around the World in Eighty Days” was an international best-seller. If you’re of a certain age, you may recall the 1956 film adaptation starring David Niven and Shirley MacLaine. Or perhaps you’re one of the few who saw the 2004 version with Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan. Although I passed on that, I did enjoy the PBS Masterpiece adaptation with David Tennant.

The 1956 film’s title song became an international hit. Can’t say the same for subsequent productions. This release presents a musical version of “Around the World” that predates all of these.

Dario Salvi is an expert at unearthing forgotten theater music from the 19th Century. And it’s music that deserves a second hearing. This time, it’s Franz von Suppé’s score for an 1872 production of “Around the World in 80 Days.”

Suppé was one of the most popular and prolific theater composers of the late 19th Century. He wrote music for over 200 productions, but only a handful of overtures are still performed.

There was a reason Suppé was so popular. He had a gift for melody and was a highly skilled orchestrator. He understood the essence of drama and how to convey it musically. And this play gave him a chance to shine.

This spectacle play depicts Phineas Fogg’s mad dash around the world. For each location Suppé presents some regional music (through the lens of Western classical music). Each set piece is sounds safely exotic. The Suez Canal, India, Borneo, and even California all get music that effectively sets the stage.

Dario Salvi directs the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra in some energetic performances. This music was written to tell a story. And under Salvi’s direction, it does just that. Even listening to the music without the liner notes I could hear the locale changes. And I could hear the key dramatic moments when they arrived.

If you like Suppé’s overtures, get this release. This score shows a more sophisticated side of this composer.

Franz von Suppé: Die Reise um die Erde in 80 Tagen
Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra; Dario Salvi, conductor
Naxos 8.574396

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