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Strauss Jr., Johann: La Chauve-Souris

Petit / Murro / Bonino / Zeni / Trucco / Rhodes
Release Date: 04/19/2005 
Label:  Tdk   Catalog #: BLCHS  
Composer:  Johann Strauss Jr.
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Choreography by Roland Petit.

Bella: Allessandra Ferri
Johann: Massimo Murru
Ulrich: Luigi Bonino

Picture Format: 16:9 Anamorphic
Sound Format: PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Running Time: 93 mins
Region Code: All
Booklet Languages: English, French, German
Recording Date: December 2003

The name of Roland Petit is almost synonymous with ballet itself, and although now 80, he still radiates vitality. Here he takes the opportunity to show off the strengths of his young, dazzlingly well-schooled and highly virtuosic dancers. La Chauve-Souris contains dance of every kind: classical ballet, waltz, clownish pantomime with Hungarian
Read more influence, and a rousing French cancan from a line-up of sexy, long legged revue girls. The resulting mix of Parisian ésprit, Viennese charm and Milanese elegance is simply irresistible.

Roland Petit's "Fledermaus à la française", La Chauve-souris, was originally created for the Ballet National de Marseille in 1979 with Petit's wife Zizi Jeanmaire partnered by Denis Ganio, and Luigi Bonino as the mastermind of the nocturnal escapades. The action was transferred from the operetta's Vienna to the Paris of Vaudeville theatres, the original source of Johann Strauss's celebrated operetta.

The ballet was re-staged for La Scala in their temporary home in the Teatro degli Arcimboldi in 2003. Directed by Luigi Bonino, Petit's long standing assistant, who also dances the role of Ulrich, it features two more dancing stars from the "Petit school" in the principal roles: Massimo Murru, the male star dancer of La Scala's company, for whom Petit wrote several ballets and Allessandra Ferri, who currently counts among the world's finest ballerinas. She holds the coveted title of "Prima Ballerina Assoluta" at La Scala, and was once described by Roland Petit as the only rightful successor to the legendary Zizi Jeanmaire.

R E V I E W S:

Here is a performance from December 2003 at Milan’s La Scala of Roland Petit’s ballet, La Chauve-souris (“The Bat” in French), based loosely on the original source material for Die Fledermaus and utilizing Douglas Gamley’s adaptation of Johann Strauss II’s score for the operetta (including, I think, much of the original ballet music as well as the Donner und Blitzen Polka, which is usually substituted for it). The attraction is, of course, the choreographer, Roland Petit, and his dancers, here the ballet of La Scala. Petit’s ballet, restaged by his assistant Luigi Bonino, who also dances Ulrich, is a confection of the first order.

The plot, which doesn’t really follow that of Die Fledermaus, is as follows (taken from the booklet): “The Eisensteins become Johann and Bella, a slightly bored, thoroughly bourgeois married couple ensconced in their comfortable home. Alfred, Rosalinde-Bella’s admirer, becomes a manipulative joker and ladies’ man called Ulrich, who slips into all sorts of roles with Chaplinesque comic facility finally cumulating with his mutation into the prison governor in the last act.” There is actually more to it than this; for one thing, Johann has wings and literally flies away on his adventures and, when he is restored to Bella, she cleverly takes a pair of scissors and cuts off his wings.

Petit’s choreography is a delight from beginning to end. The combination of exquisite ballet moves with what can only be described as low comedy is enthralling. Perhaps a third to half of the ballet is pure divertissement and, with the very minor exception of Mick Zeni as the soloist in the Csárdas in act II, the dancing by the La Scala Corps de Ballet is exquisite. Johann is danced by Massimo Murru and Bella by Alessandra Ferri, both dancers trained by Petit, while Ulrich, in many ways the most extravagant role, is brilliantly performed by Luigi Bonino. What is especially astonishing is the effortless comic verve of virtually the entire cast. The design work, scenery and costumes, is both very modern and quite period at the same time, a trick especially hard to pull off and very well done here.

I have no idea how well the musical arrangement by Gamley would stand up without the dancing. Certain segments—the waltz from the end of the overture, the “Champagne” chorus, and the “Bruderlein” duet—recur with possibly alarming frequency if you did not have the dancing in front of your eyes. The orchestral performance is fully up to the house standard—whatever else may have been going on at La Scala, Muti did as much for that orchestra as Levine has done at the Met—and Kevin Rhodes conducts with a wonderful feel for the music. The sound is excellent and, except when it is intentional, there is virtually no noise at all from the stage.

Obviously, I enjoyed this enormously and recommend it without reservation.

John Story, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

La Chauve-souris by Johann Strauss Jr.

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