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ClassicsOnline Home » STRAUSS II, J.: Fledermaus (Die) (Vienna State Opera / Krauss) (1950)
JOHANN STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
A komische Operette in three acts to a libretto by Carl Haffner and Richard Genée, based on Le réveillon by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.
Let the Danube flow along
And Die Fledermaus
Leave the wine and give me song
By Strauss, 1936
Ira Gershwin was right of course; of all operettas composed during the second half of the nineteenth century, it is Die Fledermaus that has best kept its place in the affections of the public and in the repertories of the lyric theatres of the world.
Among its close coevals are the great satires of Offenbach, a German-born composer, adopted with real frenzy by the French, and the operettas of Arthur Sullivan, which have generally travelled less well in Europe than French and Austrian music has travelled to Britain. Of these three supreme melodists, however, it is the younger Johann Strauss, and most notably his Fledermaus, that epitomizes the style of those opulent times. This is due in part to the intriguing plot, which uses a contemporary, rather than classical or historical setting and takes place around the very Vienna of the works première. In its own time it allowed the Viennese audience to recognise itself on stage and laugh at its own antics, in a way that La Belle Hélène or The Gondoliers could not quite match.
Die Fledermaus was not Strausss first venture for the stage, but its two predecessors, Indigo und die vierzig Räuber (Indigo and the Forty Thieves) of 1871 and Der Karneval in Rom (Carnival in Rome) of 1873, are barely remembered today. Some of its successors are better known, and most memorably Eine Nacht in Venedig (A Night in Venice) (1883) and Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron) (1885) also display the charm and style that was first evinced in Fledermaus. After its brilliant early run in Vienna, the operetta was soon staged in New York, and in London at the Alhambra Theatre. It reached the Metropolitan Opera in 1905 but was not heard at Covent Garden until 1930, where it has, from time to time, been revived. Indeed, the recent successful production there provided a vehicle for Dame Joan Sutherlands final stage performance, as she sang Home Sweet Home as part of the second act gala. Clearly equally popular with singers as with audiences, Die Fledermaus seems to hold a special magic. In dozens of productions over the last 125 years, many of the worlds great prime donne, leading tenors and baritones, more familiar in Mozart, Wagner and Verdi, have enjoyed an opportunity to let their musical hair down and revel in its hilarious deceptions, misunderstandings and sheer tuneful verve.
Surprisingly, in view of the operettas popularity, there had been only one virtually complete commercial recording of Die Fledermaus, made acoustically in 1907, before this classic version, conducted by Clemens Krauss. There was no shortage of fine singers who would surely have been delighted to participate in such a recording during the 1920s or 1930s - for instance, the superb cast that included Lotte Lehmann and Elisabeth Schumann, conducted by Bruno Walter, might have been ideal. Nevertheless, these and many other singers recorded solos and ensemble extracts from the earliest days of the twentieth century. The present recording was made during September 1950 in the Musikvereinsaal in Vienna, not so very far from the theatre where the première had taken place 76 years earlier, and it boasts three principals and a conductor who were natives of Vienna itself. Surely Gueden, Lipp, Patzak and, most memorably, Krauss were born with the Straussian style in their very Wiener Blut. The sheer exhilaration and lilt that Krauss brings to the music has never been equalled and the performance offers the finest ensemble work of any Fledermaus on disc. The singers all appeared together on stage at different times in this and other works, they knew each others strengths and could play to them. Probably they were friends offstage too, and it shows. Ira Gershwin was right of course:
When I want a melody
Lilting through the house
Then I want a melody
Die Fledermaus was first performed on 5th April 1874 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna.
Born into a musical Viennese family in 1893, Clemens Krauss first conducted opera at Brno in 1913. After working in several European opera houses, he returned to Vienna as conductor at the State Opera in 1922. Major appointments in Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich followed, but for political reasons Krausss post-war career was slow to be re-established; from 1947, however, he travelled world-wide, a notable and greatly admired interpreter of Wagner, Berg and other classical, romantic and contemporary composers. Krauss and his wife, the soprano Viorica Ursuleac, were friends of Richard Strauss, whose operas they performed together. Krauss died in 1954.
Hilde Gueden, born in Vienna in 1917, was one of the most popular and versatile sopranos of her century. During a career that encompassed coloratura, lyric and mezzo rôles, she was acclaimed for performances throughout Austria, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States. From 1947 until 1973 she sang at the Vienna State Opera and at the New York Metropolitan Opera from 1951 where, during fifteen seasons, she sang thirteen different rôles. From Monteverdi, through Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, both Johann and Richard Strauss, Stravinsky and Britten, Guedens repertory also included Lieder of which she was a fine interpreter. She died in 1988.
Julius Patzak, born in 1898, was a native of Vienna. In 1928 he first sang at the Munich Opera, which remained his artistic home until 1945, and after the war joined the Vienna State Opera, staying there for fifteen years. He was in demand throughout Europe for opera and oratorio performances and Lieder recitals. During a long career his repertory included works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Verdi, Offenbach, Wagner, Mahler and Puccini, Viennese operetta and, especially memorably, Beethovens Fidelio. Patzak sang much contemporary music, including Pfitzners Palestrina and premières of operas by Richard Strauss, Orff and von Einem. He died in 1974.
Wilma Lipp was born in 1925 in Vienna, where she studied, later working in Milan with Toti dal Monte; Rosina was her 1943 début rôle. She sang with the Vienna State Opera from 1945, her exceptional coloratura being heard as Queen of the Night, Adele and Blonde. Lipp first appeared at Covent Garden in 1951 in the rôle of Gilda and was a guest in Brussels, Hamburg, and Munich, at Glyndebourne, Salzburg and Bayreuth. In 1962 she sang in San Francisco and toured throughout the Americas. In 1982 Lipp became Voice Professor at the Salzburg Mozarteum, having made many recordings of her extensive soprano repertory.
Sieglinde Wagner was born in Linz, Austria in 1921 and trained at the Conservatoire there. Following further study in Munich, she made her début in Linz Landestheater in 1942, as Erda in Das Rheingold, and from 1947 sang regularly at the Volksoper and other Viennese theatres. Guest appearances in Berlin, Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome and La Scala soon followed, and from 1949 Wagner appeared frequently at the Salzburg Festival. Much admired there in Richard Strauss, as Leda in Die Liebe der Danaë in 1952, and in Wagner at Bayreuth, with eight seasons from 1962, she was also a fine interpreter of J.S.Bach.
1 The Overture is a medley of tunes from the opera, looking forward to the third act in its first three melodies, followed by the famous Fledermaus waltz.
2 Introduction. The scene is the house of Eisenstein. The voice of Alfred is heard singing to his turtle-dove that he has so often kissed, his beloved Rosalinde. The maid Adele comes into the room reading a letter from her sister Ida, a dancer in the ballet, who suggests that she should borrow a dress from Rosalinde and come to a grand supper at Prince Orlofskys to which the whole ballet has been invited: Adele laments her position as a servant, and wishes she were a turtle-dove, to fly where she would. [Adele wonders who is singing outside, realising, as she listens, that this must be Rosalindes lover. Rosalinde now enters, alarmed at the possible scandal that Alfreds presence may cause. Adele asks leave of her mistress to visit a sick aunt, but Rosalinde tells her that this is impossible: that day her husband Eisenstein is to be arrested and needs a good supper before his five days in prison: Adele must stay in.]
3 In a duettino Adele regrets yet again her position as a servant, while Rosalinde, while refusing permission, is sorry for her. [When Adele has gone, Alfred calls out to his Roserl, who is terrified that her husband may come in and find her lover at the window, but he makes her promise to allow him to return when her husband is away, and he has heard a rumour that he will soon be in prison. Rosalinde is in two minds about this, but says that, while she can resist his talking, she must give in to his top Cs. She breaks off as she hears Eisenstein and his lawyer-Dr Blind approaching.]
4 Eisenstein comes in complaining of the uselessness of his lawyer, while Blind urges patience. The two continue to quarrel, while Rosalinde tries to calm them. Eisenstein blames Blind for the extension of his sentence by three days: the lawyer chatters like a starling, stutters, crows like a cockerel. Blind is equally angry and in his defence lists the procedures he can go through on appeal. [Left with his wife, Eisenstein is calmer, and calls for supper. Adele comes in crying and tells her master about the illness of her aunt. The voice of Alfred is heard outside, serenading his turtle-dove and arousing the misplaced suspicions of Eisenstein, who warns Adele not to overstrain her aunt. Rosalinde asks the girl for a snack for her husband, but Eisenstein, to be condemned to eight days bread and water, calls for a real dinner, to be brought in from The Golden Lion, with meats and puddings, a feast, while Rosalinde must look out his oldest and shabbiest clothes for his arrest. His friend Falke arrives, congratulating him on the extension of his sentence, but Rosalinde tells him not to joke, as she goes out to find her husbands clothes, and Adele goes to fetch dinner. Falke brings Eisenstein an invitation to supper at the villa of Prince Orlofsky, the young Russian millionaire. Eisenstein at first demurs, but wavers when he hears that the petits rats, the girls of the ballet, will be there. Falke reminds him of the masked ball at Schönbrunn when Eisenstein had gone as a butterfly and Falke as a bat, for which Falke should have his revenge. Eisenstein takes out his famous rat-catcher, his repeater watch, with which he fascinates the ladies.]
5 In the following duo Falke repeats his invitation, holding out the promise of pretty ballerinas. Eisenstein is anxious that his wife should not know, and Falke tells him to bid a fond farewell to the little kitten. No, replies Eisenstein, to his little mouse, while he slinks out of the house like a cat and goes to the party instead of to prison. He must be the Marquis Renard, Falke suggests. [Eisenstein realises that he now has a problem with his dress. Rosalinde brings in the shabby clothes he had asked for, but he has changed his mind. She is puzzled when he asks Falke to give his greeting to the rats, but explains that the prison is full of rats. Now, however, he will change into evening dress and top hat, as a protest against his imprisonment. Adele appears with the supper and Rosalinde, with her own scheme in mind, allows her the evening off to visit her sick aunt. Eisenstein re-appears, ready to go without his supper, eager to chase the little rats, and explaining to Rosalinde that he is quoting an old Chinese proverb "If rats gnaw, avoid a full stomach". The couple take a fond parting: Eisenstein will twist and turn through the night, as his wife sleeps, he assures her.]
6 In a terzetto Rosalinde laments her coming eight days of loneliness, joined by Eisenstein and Adele, although all have their own delights to look forward to. [When the other two have gone, Rosalinde lets Alfred in and he proceeds to make himself comfortable in her husbands dressing-gown: ordering for breakfast coffee, then roast beef, caviar, eggs. Rosalinde protests, but Alfred seeks her favour once . . twice. First they will drink, then sing - No, not sing, she pleads.]
7 In the Finale of the act Alfred bids Rosalinde drink quickly: it will bring a sparkle to her eyes. She wonders what will come of this, since Alfred clearly intends to spend the night with her, but they agree that it is best to forget what cannot be changed. Voices are heard and the sound of someone coming upstairs. The prison governor Frank is admitted, come to collect Rosalindes husband. Alfred is happily singing and drinking, and invites Frank, who naturally takes him for Eisenstein, to join him.
8 Frank is prepared to make allowances. Alfred denies that he is Eisenstein, but Rosalinde insists that he must be her husband: after all she would hardly sit at home with a stranger in a dressing-gown, ensconced there like a pasha.
9 Frank is convinced and Alfred takes a parting kiss, thinking that he will certainly find Eisenstein himself in the prison when he gets there. Frank now urges Alfred to hurry to the carriage outside so that they can soon be at his bird-cage, with its gaol-birds fluttering in and out. Alfred promises Rosalinde to remain silent and seeks yet another farewell kiss. Frank hurries Alfred out, since he too is on his way to Prince Orlofskys.
Act II (part 1)
10 At Prince Orlofskys the party has begun. A chorus of guests celebrates, the key-note being amusement. [Adele arrives, wearing one of Rosalindes dresses, and is greeted by her surprised sister, whose invitation to her had been intended as a joke: the party is for fine folk, but Ida quickly decides to introduce Adele as an artiste, as Orlofsky comes in, chatting with Falke, who explains the charade he has arranged, The Revenge of the Bat. Ida comes forward and presents Adele as an actress, Olga, but the latter is nonplussed when Orlofsky, whose speech is interlarded with Russian, as opposed to the Viennese dialect of the two girls, addresses her in Russian. The voice of a croupier is heard announcing Rien ne va plus, as Adele is about to embark on a fictitious account of her career. Falke, who has recognised her, tells Orlofsky who she is. At this moment the hero of Falkes drama is announced, the Marquis Renard, alias Eisenstein, who does not recognise Orlofsky and asks Falke where the lad is. When Orlofsky is introduced, he is compelled to apologize, since he had always imagined princes rather different. Orlofsky tells him to sit down and listen to his account of the national customs of Russia.]
11 Orlofsky is bored with his millions, but enjoys his parties, where his guests must find pleasure or be thrown out, drink with him or have a bottle thrown at their heads. He ends by repeating his motto, Chacun à son goût. Adele and Eisenstein recognise each other, to their mutual consternation, but Falke introduces the girls to Eisenstein as Olga and Ida, while Orlofsky begins to enjoy the joke that Falke has prepared. Eisenstein asks Adele if she has always been Olga, and Adele asks him if he has always been a Marquis Renard, and urges him to say whom she resembles. His housemaid, he tells her.
12 Orlofsky calls on his guests to enjoy the joke: the Marquis has mistaken Adele for a servant. He reproaches him with his lack of gallantry, but Eisenstein pleads that the likeness is striking.
13 Adele adds that a man like the Marquis should know better: maidservants do not have such fine hands, such dainty feet, such a way of speaking and dressing, and she laughs at his mistake, mirth in which the rest of the company joins. [Eisenstein begs everyones pardon, which Adele haughtily grants. The manservant Ivan announces a new guest, the Chevalier Chagrin, really, as Falke explains to Orlofsky, the prison governor Frank. He is welcomed by Falke and Orlofsky and apologizes for his lateness. Falke now introduces the supposed French Chevalier to the Marquis Renard - fellow-countrymen, as Orlofsky remarks. The two now attempt conversation in very broken French, interspersed with German. Ida asks when supper will be, since she is hungry, and Falke says they must wait for the arrival of a very interesting guest, a Hungarian countess, married to a stupid fellow and therefore to remain masked during the party. Adele admires Eisensteins watch, and he is again convinced of her identity. At this point the new guest arrives, Rosalinde, dressed as a Hungarian countess, having received a message from Falke to remain disguised from her husband. She immediately recognises Adele and her own dress. In conversation with Frank Eisenstein boasts of the conquests he has made by showing girls his watch and the two find themselves near neighbours and agree to meet again, to Falkes amusement. Rosalinde now starts to admire Eisensteins watch, which he describes as an open sesame with the girls. In the following conversation she plans to take possession of the watch as corpus delicti, proof of her husbands infidelity.]
Act II (part 2)
1 The flirtation between Eisenstein and Rosalinde continues, the latter remarking in an aside on her husbands choice of kisses rather than chains. He urges her to remove her mask, but she refuses, expressing her true feelings in an aside, while he is happy at his progress. With an eye to seizing the watch, Rosalinde induces Eisenstein to time her heart-beat with its ticking. She deliberately counts wrongly, and takes the watch from him, while he counts, then appropriating the watch as a present, to Eisensteins annoyance.
[Ida, Adele and Frank wonder how beautiful the countess is, and the company shout for her to unmask, but Orlofsky intervenes. Eisenstein is upset about the loss of his watch, which he tells Frank is now irretrievably concealed in the cleavage of the countess. Adele doubts whether she is Hungarian at all, but Rosalinde promises to prove it.]
2 In the famous Czárdás Rosalinde sings of her alleged homeland, a remarkable performance that should convince everyone. [Orlofsky announces supper and persuades Eisenstein to tell the story of the Schönbrunn masked ball which Eisenstein and Falke had attended as butterfly and bat, the second with a dark skin, black wings, long claws and an improbable yellow beak. Eisenstein had abandoned his friend to sleep it off in the middle of the city and then, when day came, to make his way home through the city in his strange costume, with everyone laughing at Doctor Bat, as he went by. He who laughs last laughs best, Falke remarks.]
3 In the Finale of Act II Orlofsky sings in praise of King Champagne, followed by Eisenstein and then Adele. Eisenstein, in his rô1e as Marquis Renard, toasts the Chevalier Chagrin, and the two thank each other, their refrain of "merci" echoed by the chorus. Falke leads the company in a hymn to brotherhood and sisterhood, for ever, as today.
4 Orlofsky calls for quiet for the ballet, and the orchestra plays in accompaniment to the polka of the chorus, "Marianka, come and dance". Orlofsky calls for quiet again and announces a czárdás. After the ballet he invites the whole company to dance, and they join in a waltz, the Fledermaus waltz first heard in the Overture.
5 Frank and Eisenstein cement their friendship. The latter tries to make the countess unmask, but without success. When the clock strikes six, Eisenstein and Frank realise they must go and call for their hats and coats, as the party breaks up.
6 The final act is set in the prison. It is introduced by an entracte. [The voice of Alfred is heard, with snatches of his serenade to Rosalinde. The gaoler Frosch is drunk and complaining at the noise of Prisoner Number 12: he is not a quick drinker, as Alfreds song would suggest, but a slow and regular drinker. His boss has advised him to put his money in the bank at 4%, but slivovitz is better at 40% proof. He goes on drinking and looks for the key to Alfreds cell, which is already open. Alfred tells him to leave him alone, calling him a drunken idiot, an insult that Frosch, as an Austrian civil servant, resents.] Day is breaking, as Frank comes in, his clothes untidy and in general the worse for wear, to be greeted by his drunken underling. He whistles softly the sound of the Fledermaus waltz and then dances to it, before correcting himself and trying to climb the winding stairs out of the room, with no success. [Frosch totters in again to make his morning report to the Herr Direktor: Prisoner Number 12 is righting on his stands, that is, standing on his rights and asking for a lawyer. Franks hiccough is echoed by Frosch - Damned champagne, says Frank: damned slivovitz, says Frosch. There is a ring at the door and Frosch opens to what must be two ladies or perhaps one. They announce themselves as Ida and Olga, at which Frank is overjoyed. Frosch says they want to speak to a Kavalier Kagreun, but that cannot be Frank, who tells him to be gone. Adele has a confession to make: she is not an artiste but a maidservant in the employ of Eisenstein. And you let me kiss your hand, exclaims Frank. My mouth too, she replies, and asks him to put in a word for her with her employer for the dress she wore the night before. Ida asks him to help her sister in her proposed stage career, and Adele tries to settle his doubts on her ability.]
7 Adele now displays her versatility. She can take the part of a simple country girl, or a queen or a lady from Paris, the wife of a Marquis, caught in her infidelity in the third act and finally pardoned by her husband. [Frank agrees to help, but they are interrupted by Frosch who announces a drunken headwaiter, the Marker Renoir, a description Frank recognises as the Marquis Renard. Frosch must hide the girls in Number 13, temporarily vacated by his brother-in-law.
Eisenstein enters, greeting his dear Chevalier, who welcomes him and offers a share of his breakfast. Frank apologizes for his deception: he is not the Chevalier Chagrin but the governor of the prison. Eisenstein does not believe him, but Frank summons Frosch, who comes at the third ring of the bell, and tells him to lock the Marquis up. Frosch obeys, convincing Eisenstein, who now reveals his own identity. Frank laughs in disbelief: he cannot be Eisenstein, because Eisenstein was arrested the night before, at supper, in a dressing-gown, with his wife. Eisenstein is now alarmed. "With my wife!" "No, with his wife!" "His wife is my wife!" "The two of you have one wife!" Eisenstein, Franks adds, is now in Number 12.]
[At this point Frosch announces another visitor, a lady, - Oak - Box-tree - yes, Rosalinde, he knew it was a tree of some sort. Frank goes out to greet her. Eisenstein now starts to doubt his senses, as Frosch ushers in another visitor, Dr Blind, a name that puzzles Frosch, since Blind can apparently see. Eisenstein asks him what he is doing in the prison, and Blind stutters back that he has summoned him. Eisenstein has a sudden idea, and borrows the lawyers case, glasses and coat, giving up the idea of taking the mans wig, which he finds is the lawyers own hair. Frosch brings Alfred in to meet the lawyer, to an exclamation from Rosalinde, who greets her lover and warns him, but fails to recognise her husband.]
8 In the following terzetto Rosalinde urges discretion, while Alfred thinks he should tell the lawyer everything. Eisenstein plays the lawyer and elicits from Alfred that he was arrested as he took supper with Rosalinde. Eisenstein interrupts his account of matters with his own exclamations. Rosalinde, however, defends her behaviour as the wife of a deceitful husband, whose eyes she would scratch out, if he were to come home. This is too much for Eisenstein, who reveals himself, to their immediate consternation. [Rosalinde too wants her own revenge and discloses that she was the Hungarian countess at Prince Orlofskys. In what Frank describes as a recognition scene Eisenstein demands his dressing-gown, which Alfred will be glad to give him, with a further seven days in prison. Frosch comes in to announce that the two girls in Number 13 are refusing to let him give them their regulation bath, and Frank, who had forgotten them, tells Frosch to bring them in.]
9 Falke and Orlofsky have now joined the company, with other guests, and all is explained as a plot to take revenge on Eisenstein for the trick he had played Falke. They were all in the plot, the Prince, Adele, Alfred and Rosalinde. They end with Orlofskys motto, chacun à son goût, but the last word is Eisensteins, as he seeks forgiveness from Rosalinde: it was only champagne that was guilty.
This recording of Die Fledermaus, highly acclaimed at the time of its original issue and one of the early treasures of the Long Play record, was recorded in Viennas Musikvereinsaal, mostly in September of l950. The entertainment in the second act, which can be almost anything from a dance sequence to a totally unrelated presentation, is billed in this recording as "Ballet Music", and not further identified; it is, of course, Frühlingsstimmen, and had been recorded on 22nd June l950, and issued separately on Decca K 28374 (78) and Decca LXT 2634 and London LLP 454. This Fledermaus set was also issued on conventional 78s (Decca AX 470/8l).
As a producer of CD reissues, David Lennicks work in this field grew directly from his own needs as a broadcaster specialising in vintage material and the need to make it listenable while being transmitted through equalisers, compressors and the inherent limitations of AM radio. Equally at home in the classical, pop, jazz and nostalgia fields, Lennick describes himself as exercising as much control as possible on the final product, in conjunction with CEDAR noise reduction applied by Graham Newton in Toronto. As both broadcaster and re-issue producer, he relies on his own extensive collection as well as those made available to him by private collectors, the University of Toronto, Syracuse University and others.
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