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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

A superb 2023 solid places the fizz again into Vienna State Opera’s venerable Die Fledermaus – Seen and Heard Worldwide

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AustriaAustria Johann Strauss II, Die Fledermaus: Soloists, Refrain and Orchestra of Vienna State Opera / Simone Younger (conductor). Broadcast dwell (directed by Jakob Pitzer) from the Vienna State Opera, 31.12.2023. (JPr)

Hiroshi Amako (Alfred) and Camilla Nylund (Rosalinde) © WS/Michael Pöhn

Manufacturing – Otto Schenk
Stage design – Günther Schneider-Siemssen
Costume design – Milena Canonero
Choreography for ‘Unter Donner und Blitz’ – Gerlinde Dill
Refrain grasp – Martin Schebesta

Gabriel von Eisenstein – Johannes Martin Kränzle
Rosalinde – Camilla Nylund
Frank – Wolfgang Bankl
Prince Orlofsky – Patricia Nolz
Alfred – Hiroshi Amako
Dr Falke – Martin Hässler
Dr Blind – Norbert Ernst
Adele – Regula Mühlemann
Ida – Ileana Tonca
Frosch – Johannes Silberschneider
Ivan – Jaroslav Pehal

Vienna was in lockdown after I final noticed a New Yr’s Eve Die Fledermaus from the Staatsoper in 2020 – the place have these years gone? – and that may have affected the efficiency significantly, so it most likely did deserve my headline then of ‘The champagne falls flat’. What a distinction this time and I believe having an viewers totally having fun with themselves was a part of the explanation I actually loved Die Fledermaus this time. What did disappoint me subsequently on New Yr’s Day was the Vienna Philharmonic’s conventional Musikverein live performance. I used to be stuffed with admiration for Christian Thielemann’s laidback fashion – other than one financial flash of anger – in guiding the orchestra. Nonetheless, the programme had 9 premieres (most likely as a result of Sony demanded new works for his or her nearly quick CD launch) and on the proof of the ‘sameness’ of most of what we heard, there clearly is an efficient motive among the items weren’t performed earlier than!

With any Fledermaus it’s well-nigh unattainable to not have reminiscences rekindled of different performances I’ve seen of this entertaining work over practically six many years (!) and people showing in it, equivalent to – amongst many legendary names  – Adele Leigh, Hermann Prey, Marilyn Hill Smith, Eric Shilling, Alan Opie … and even Frankie Howerd within the Eighties because the non-singing jailer, Frosch. My first Fledermaus was at Vienna Volksoper and – though I can’t actually bear in mind something about that – I’ve seen it there since and in addition in London, so how did this evaluate? On this event, very extremely I’m happy to report.

The libretto was by Karl Haffner and Richard Genée and the plot of their Fledermaus has its roots in French farce, particularly with nearly all of the characters being another person for many of it. The rich philanderer Gabriel von Eisenstein should go to jail for eight days for calling a policeman ‘a jackass’. Nonetheless, his buddy Dr Falke convinces him to spend his final night time of freedom at a ball thrown by Prince Orlofsky, an eccentric Russian who has cash to burn and is determined for a superb chortle. Falke’s hidden agenda is that he’s looking for revenge for a humiliating prank Eisenstein performed on him years earlier than. He introduces Eisenstein on the ball as a French marquis, and in addition invitations the jail governor Frank (additionally posing as a Frenchman), Eisenstein’s chambermaid Adele (supposedly now an actress), and his spouse Rosalinde (pretending to be Hungarian) who thinks her husband is in jail. Rosalinde had been ‘entertaining’ Alfred, an Italian tenor, in Eisenstein’s absence and he has been mistakenly taken to jail. In the long run, husband and spouse – who’ve been considerably estranged – are fortunately reconciled and Eisenstein accepts the joke was on him. As occurred now in Vienna what we had been capable of do was luxuriate within the 3/4 time music from the ‘Waltz King’, and the absurdities of the plot had been fortunately ignored in all of the enjoyable that was had by all.

This manufacturing by Otto Schenk – now 93 years younger – dates from 1979 and the lavish units (by the late Günther Schneider-Siemssen) and Milena Canonero’s beautiful costumes are all redolent of fin-de-siècle Vienna. It stays a bit of cluttered at instances however there’s a gorgeous use of a turntable in Act II to disclose the luxurious ballroom with its massive semi-circular desk elaborately set for dinner. What can usually be a somewhat stiffly staged ball, turns into a riot of swaying, swirling – drunken or in any other case – figures, ending with the collapse of an enormous conga line. All that is underscored by Strauss’s Unter Donner und Blitz (Thunder and Lightning) polka!

It’s a deeply conventional Die Fledermaus and – whereas I’m conflicted by Wagner’s ‘Kinder, macht Neues!’ for each opera and ballet – I’m completely happy for productions like this to outlive lengthy after their ‘sell-by date’. This efficiency had some very entertaining moments and was one in all finest I’ve seen and heard. Who cares – although some would possibly – that we’re having fun with watching somewhat mature, skirt-chasing males, a megarich Russian carried out en travesti and somebody with a speech obstacle. For an excellent Fledermaus – as this was – you want a solid of triple-threats, on this case, high quality singers who’re equally good at comedy and who could also be required to bop nicely too! The 2023 solid was not as ‘starry’ as that in 1979 which included a number of legendary names – equivalent to, Bernd Weikl, Lucia Popp, Brigitte Fassbaender, Walter Berry, and Edita Gruberová – however they made this champagne-fuelled event fizz which is all that issues.

Not solely does Fledermaus want singing actors who’re consummate gentle comedians, they need to be able to creating precisely the onstage chemistry for its numerous couplings they did right here. Some I had seen in 2020 however others had been new to me of their roles and it’s fascinating what number of of them have Wagner of their repertoire: notably, Camilla Nylund who not too long ago made her debut as Brünnhilde, Johannes Martin Kränzle is a famend Beckmesser, Wolfgang Bankl has sung many Klingsors; with Martin Hässler and Norbert Ernst acquainted from quite a lot of Wagner roles.

Johannes Martin Kränzle (Eisenstein) and Regula Mühlemann (Adele) © WS/Michael Pöhn

Johannes Martin Kränzle introduced a whole lot of his consummate Beckmesser to an Eisenstein extra exasperated than raffish, although he sang suavely. Martin Hässler’s Falke was suitably conspiratorial and the highpoint of his vocal efficiency, ‘Brüderlein, Brüderlein und Schwesterlein’, had appreciable eloquence. As in 2020 Regula Mühlemann was the singer who encompassed finest what a profitable Fledermaus wants and her singing as a perky Adele was an absolute delight with exact coloratura throughout her Act II ‘Laughing Tune’ and her instinctive performing stuffed with pleasant humour. Hiroshi Amako was a charismatic Alfred and introduced a pleasing lyricism to the lovestruck patsy. There was some spirited parodic singing from him with all of the tenorial ‘sampling’ that’s the ‘in-joke’ of his function. Notably there was fairly a little bit of Wagner, and particularly some Mozart and Puccini, and Rosalinde is greeted within the remaining act by Alfred singing Florestan’s ‘O namenlose Freude!’ Wolfgang Bankl was a suitably seedy jail governor Frank who has greater than only a fatherly curiosity in supporting Adele’s performing plans. (I’m shedding rely of the instances I’ve seen Frank go to sleep in Act III beneath the newspaper together with his cigar burning via it!) It’s Prince Orlofsky who saves Adele from Frank’s advances and Patricia Nolz’s ‘The Champagne Tune’ was as glowing because it should be. Nolz impressed as Orlofsky who’s devoid of humour till the tip of the second act makes ‘him’ chortle uproariously. Lastly, Rosalinde’s well-known ‘Czardas’ was heavy going for Camilla Nylund and maybe ‘Klänge der Heimat’ (‘Sounds from dwelling’) doesn’t fully swimsuit her present voice however elsewhere there was a lot to take pleasure in in her wholehearted efficiency and her safe – and undoubtedly Wagnerian – high notes.

It’s uncommon if Act III doesn’t appear a drawn-out affair, notably if you’re not a local German speaker and any English subtitles usually are not translating all of jailer Frosch’s schtick. I understood a few of what main Austrian actor, Johannes Silberschneider, was saying and laughed greater than ordinary at his (Slivovitz-fuelled) antics, particularly regarding a puddle of water and a bucket! He was an professional at bodily comedy and amongst a few of his asides I feel there have been just a few (modern?) scathing feedback about Austrian officialdom, starting with ‘When an Austrian official arrives in his workplace within the morning he needs his peace and quiet. Why else grow to be a civil servant?’ (That is very paying homage to Britain’s Working From Dwelling issues.)

Ileana Tonca was an enthralling Ida as soon as once more, and as in 2020, deserving of particular reward had been a splendidly dedicated and energetic refrain and the ebullient dancers throughout their Act II shenanigans. As heard via loudspeakers, I couldn’t fault Simone Younger’s conducting which had all of the vitality and headlong rush this operetta wants. There was a real sense of echt Viennese Schwung from Younger and the members of the Vienna Philharmonic within the pit. With Riccardo Muti introduced once more (why??) for the 2024 New Yr’s Day live performance might a lady – Younger herself probably? – ever be a candidate for that prestigious occasion?

All in all – if maybe not a Die Fledermaus for the ages – it was great begin to my 2024 musical journey.

Jim Pritchard

Featured picture: Regula Mühlemann (Adele) and Patricia Nolz (Orlofsky) © WS/Michael Pöhn

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