Notes and Editorial Reviews
Johann Strauss II DIE FLEDERMAUS
Gabriel von Eisenstein – Bernd Weikl
Rosalinde – Lucia Popp
Frank – Erich Kunz
Prinz Orlofsky – Brigitte Fassbaender
Alfred – Josef Hopferwieser
Dr. Falke – Walter Berry
Dr. Blind – Anton Wendler
Adele – Edita Gruberova
Ida – Karin Göttling
Frosch – Helmut Lohner
Iwan – Karl Caslavsky
Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orchestra
(chorus master: Norbert Balatsch)
Theodor Guschlbauer, conductor
Otto Schenk, stage director
Günther Schneider-Siemssen, set design
Milena Canonero, costume designer
Gerlinde Dille, choreography
Recorded live from the Vienna State Opera, 1980.
Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese
Running time: 169 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)
J. STRAUSS II
Theodor Guschlbauer, cond; Bernd Weikl (
); Lucia Popp (
); Erich Kunz (
); Brigitte Fassbaender (
); Josef Hopferwieser (
); Walter Berry (
); Edita Gruberova (
); Helmut Lohner (
); Vienna St Op O/Ch/Ballet
ARTHAUS MUSIK 107 153 (DVD 169:00) Live: Vienna 1980
Otto Schenk, actor and director, had performed the role of Frosch 29 times on the Viennese stage before directing this, his own version of
. That was in 1979, to great success. The following year, once again on New Year’s Eve, the production was mounted and broadcast by Austrian Television. This is what has been rereleased here. Its legendary status is not borne out by the DVD, but it’s good enough to offer considerable pleasure.
To begin with, there are the sets and costumes, both realistically done and very detailed, right down to the jail’s framed picture of Emperor “Franzl,” and the
feel to the Eisenstein residence. Better still is the
mise en scène
—as when the crowd at Orlofsky’s party moves across and through the front of the stage in several small, tightly conversational groups, while the major part of the set revolves against them to open upon the larger ballroom. The handling here and everywhere of crowds is accomplished with perfect naturalness. This is moderately difficult to find today, and in 1980 it was rarer still.
Along with Peter Weiser, Schenk is also responsible for the dialogue changes and bits of added physical business that supply a level of activity and humor not unlike the background byplay in a Lubitsch film. When two or more people converse, there’s a degree of interaction that makes more of the moment than is usually the case, and that’s all to the good.
Well, mostly. This kind of direction relies upon an ensemble of singing actors, and at that point in his career, Bernd Weikl didn’t have it to offer. He sings well enough, but with neither a Viennese accent (which several of the others display) nor much more than a generalized sense of involvement. I am also let down by his character portrayal of Eisenstein. Whether it’s Schenk or Weikl who developed this, the result is an exemplar of egotistical boorishness who certainly doesn’t fit in at Orlofsky’s party, and even seems out of sorts at his home. By the laws of Viennese stagecraft, a man may be guilty of anything, from forging money to stealing the pensions of elderly widows to owning a multinational corporation; as long as he’s charming, all will eventually be forgiven. Weikl’s Eisenstein lacks charm. One wonders if that wasn’t the real reason the Viennese operetta police originally put him in jail.
Brigitte Fassbaender in turn plays Orlofsky as impassive and too small-scaled. She also has some breathing issues at the accelerated pace of the champagne toast. Edita Gruberova, on the other hand, revels in it. She and Lucia Popp turn in the best vocal performances of the evening, and neither is a slouch in the acting department, either. Falke may be a fairly thankless part, but Walter Berry acts it superbly, both as actor and singer. Helmut Lohner makes a wonderfully deadpan, physically marvelous Frosch, seemingly surfing across the floor (“There’s a lot of black ice on it,” he remarks at one point) as the drunken jailer. Erich Kunz is inimitable as Frank, though his wildly funny silent turn after arriving at the jail, similarly drunk, before briefly falling asleep, contradicts the lines when he wakes up, mostly sober, just a few minutes later to interact with Frosch. Theodor Guschlbauer leads the Vienna State Opera Orchestra (known elsewhere as the Vienna Philharmonic) with more energy and focus than I can ever recall hearing him use since.
The camerawork is strong, with a good proportion of long shots that take in a significant portion of the stage while losing none of the focus on individual expression. There’s no evidence of visual or audio deterioration, such as one might expect from materials recorded around the same time. Sound is provided in PCM stereo, with a picture format of 4:3. Subtitles are furnished in German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Chinese.
In short, though not a perfect
by any means, it’s still a very good one, with vigor, excellent interplay, and some top-notch performances. Recommended, with reservations noted.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr.
Helmut Lohner (Bass),
Edita Gruberova (Soprano),
Lucia Popp (Soprano),
Brigitte Fassbaender (Mezzo Soprano),
Bernd Weikl (Baritone),
Erich Kunz (Baritone),
Walter Berry (Bass Baritone),
Anton Wendler (Tenor),
Josef Hopferwieser (Tenor),
Karin Göttling (Soprano),
Karl Caslavsky (Bass)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Written: 1874; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 1980
Venue: Vienna State Opera
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