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Johan Strauss: Die Fledermaus (highlights).
21 Jan 2007

STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus

Record companies are dominated by accountants and short term cost structure seems to be more important than artistic results or even sale figures. This is a prime example.

Johan Strauss: Die Fledermaus (highlights)

Nicolai Gedda (Eisenstein), Anneliese Rothenberger (Rosalinde), Renate Holm

EMI Classics 0094635569124 [CD]

$4.53  Click to buy

The CD is a faithful and therefore easy to produce copy of the LP Highlights. It lasts 53 minutes and therefore, even as a budget issue, doesn’t give value for the money. All ‘big moments’ are on it but a modern CD can easily include all introductory music, often underlining some dialogue and so giving us the full score. After all, the complete performance was recorded 35 years ago and I don’t think that issue will stand high on most collector’s favourite list due to some dubious casting decisions.

The most obvious mistake is Rothenberger as Rosalinde. Though the voice was not so fresh anymore and the top had become less easy, she still could have given us an acceptable Adèle. But in those days she was a big star in Germany with her own TV-show as I well remember and therefore well bankable. A ‘seconda donna’ was out of the question and as a result she is completely out of her league. Her czardas in the second act, admittedly one of the most taxing arias for any soprano due to Strauss’ way of using the voice as another violin, is 4 minutes of strain, driving or trying to drive her small voice over the Vienna Philharmonic. She cannot dominate the big ensembles at the end of the second act and one sighs for Gueden and doesn’t even want to think of Lehmann. Her partner in many an operetta recording was Nicolai Gedda and here he sings Eisenstein. I’ve never liked Prey or Waechter in this role, good singers as they were, because together with Franke and Falk this made for three baritones. Gedda with all his talent nevertheless is only a bleak unimpressive Eisenstein without the sprinkling so necessary in the second act (how one longs for Tauber). Waldemar Kmennt, far less gifted than Gedda, in the second Karajan recording is more convincing and proves that many years of operetta experience in the theatre have the edge over Gedda’s flying in and out and re-recording a role he only sang in the famous Schwarzkopf/Karajan I Fledermaus. Renate Hom is a charming Adèle though she lacks the complete vocal security at the top of the voice (she started out as a pop singer). Adolf Dallapoezza on the contrary has the necessary virility for Alfred and the apt sound. After all, though born in the conquered part of Austria by Italy, his name betrays Italian ancestry. Fischer-Dieskau in his many worthwhile books with memories freely admits that contrary to others (meant is his great rival Prey) he was not able to sing roles in a lighter vein. Still his Falke is amusing and charming and definitely not the unmitigated disaster his Homonay was in Der Zigeuneraron (where Mrs. Dieskau sang the title role). As always in Fledermaus the Vienna Philharmonic conducts itself very well though officially the name of the conductor is Willy Boskovsky, for many years the orchestra’s beloved ‘Konzertmeister’.

Jan Neckers

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