J Strauss: Die Fledermaus (live and studio performances)

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LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Die Fledermaus (live and studio performances)
PERFORMER: Matthias Klink/Michael Kupfer, Michela Sburlati, Raphael Sigling, Marisa Altmann-Althausen, Francesco Marcacci; Tyrol Festival Chorus & Orchestra/Gustav Kuhn
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 98339 2
So why serve up two helpings of Die Fledermaus at one sitting? The essays in the accompanying booklet skate around the reasons for boxing together a studio production and a live recording. Indeed, both Franz Winter, who directed the original stage production for the Tyrolean Festival Erl in 2002, and the conductor Gustav Kuhn write in an English that seems to have come from a faraway galaxy of which we know little. But it’s good to know that this production is ‘conscious of the cleft into which it leaps’. Reading between their lines – or the ‘railings of the score’ as Winter puts it – it’s the old debate about whether a live performance is more faithful to the spirit of a work than a studio recording. No question which wins out here. It’s the live performance. The studio recording is scrupulously attentive to every detail in the score, over reverent indeed, with the singers often mistaking accuracy for inspiration. Compare Michela Sburlati’s two versions of the Act II ‘Czardas’. On stage it’s properly Hungarian while in the studio it’s just the recipe for goulash. And a Fledermaus without Frosch, without the dialogue, without the local jokes (and they are all about Kufstein here) is no show, just a string of musical numbers. In fact the comparison is odious since stage and studio field different Adeles and Eisensteins. Paola Antonucci on stage is a proper soubrette while in the studio Natalie Karl appears to be auditioning for Zerbinetta. And if you like a baritone Eisenstein then Michael Kupfer has the edge over his studio rival Matthias Klink. But all credit to Gustav Kuhn for letting us have the ballet music rather than the Thunder and Lightning Polka at Orlovsky’s party. If it’s a live performance you want then Bonynge at Covent Garden is still unbeatable even if it’s in English (and frustratingly currently unavailable). In the studio it has to be Kleiber with Julia Varady and Hermann Prey. Christopher Cook