Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Johann Strauss II
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Die Fledermaus
PERFORMER: Adey Grummet, Rosemarie Arthars, Khosrow Mahsoori, David FieldsendD’Oyly Carte Opera Company/John Owen Edwards
CATALOGUE NO: S2K 64573 DDD
Whatever the shortcomings of its plot, Fledermaus, with its fizzing tunes and fabulous arias, has always seemed comparatively indestructible. But that was reckoning without the attentions of D’Oyly Carte. Though the decision to sing it in English is laudable, alarm bells start ringing when you read of the company’s intention to ‘free’ the piece of ‘its Viennese traditions’. In fact, Alistair Beaton’s naff translation (‘Oh homeland, land of my kin/Oh homeland, far beyond Berlin!/Where men are good-looking/And goulash is cooking,’ sings Rosemarie Arthars’s vibrato-laden Rosalinde in the csárdás) is the least of its problems, given that much of it is inaudible. The recording retains substantial, tedious passages of speech, delivered in a way that assumes characterisation is merely a matter of affecting a silly voice and an oddly Germanic intonation. This is especially disappointing given that the touring production’s director, the usually reliable Martin Duncan, is credited on the disc.

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As far as the performance goes, the playing and most of the singing is competent, some of it good, with only Adey Grummet’s braying Adele letting the side down, but the overall impression is thin, lifeless and, when you consider the competition (Te Kanawa, Gruberová and Fassbaender on Philips; Schwarzkopf, Streich and Gedda on EMI), pointless. Claire Wrathall