J Strauss: Die Fledermaus

Our rating 
1.0 out of 5 star rating 1.0

COMPOSERS: J Strauss
LABELS: Arthaus
ALBUM TITLE: J Strauss
WORKS: Die Fledermaus
PERFORMER: Christoph Homberger, Mireille Delunsch, Jerry Hadley, Dale Duesing; Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra/Marc Minkowski; dir. Hans Neuenfels (Salzburg Festival, 2001)
CATALOGUE NO: 100 340
Can you boo a DVD? You bet. And let’s start with Hans Neuenfels’s production of Die Fledermaus which caused such a rumpus at the Salzburg Festival in 2001.

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There is nothing wrong with scraping the corns off an operetta that’s kept bourgeois toes tapping for over a century. But if you want to épater les bourgeois then be savage not silly, and satirical not just clever. This Fledermaus is silly and ‘clever’ clever.

Neuenfels has rewritten the dialogue to include radically chic texts by the likes of Karl Kraus and Gottfried Benn. Prince Orlofsky, the rock star David Moss, is a cokehead dressed in dreads and pyjamas and Christoph Homberger’s Eisenstein is a cut-price Goering in a vast white uniform. Frosch is sung by a woman in man’s evening dress and our mistress of ceremonies in all three acts, and the 1870s have almost become the Thirties. The boys in the chorus are in and out of their trousers and each other’s and there’s enough ladies’ underwear to undress a dozen productions of Cabaret. And, of course, there’s a ‘concept’ – that Vienna was and is a hotbed of racial, sexual and social hypocrisy. What a surprise!

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Sad to say there’s some pretty good singing buried in the ruins of this Fledermaus. Mireille Delunsch is elegantly seductive in her Csardas and Malin Hartelius is a properly pert Adele. As for Marc Minkowski in the pit, here is a conductor who seems to have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth hallmarked ‘operetta’. He, his cast and even the Salzburg audience deserve better. Altogether now, ‘Three Boos for…’ Christopher Cook