J. Strauss Jr.: Die Fledermaus / Armstrong, Allen [Blu-ray]
J. STRAUSS II Die Fledermaus • Vladimir Jurowski, cond; Pamela Armstrong ( Rosalinde ); Thomas Allen ( Eisenstein ); Håkan Hagegård ( Dr. Falke ); Pär Lindskog ( Alfred ); Malena Ernman ( Prince Orlovsky ); Lyubov Petrova ( Adele ); Ragnar Ulfung ( Dr. Blind ); Artur Korn ( Frank ); Udo Samel ( Frosch ); Reneé Schüttengruber ( Ida ); Glyndebourne Ch; London PO • BBC/OPUS ARTE 7004 (Blu-ray Disc: 198:00) Live: Glyndebourne 8/17/2003
& Cast & costume galleries. The Genesis of the Waltz. The Architect Returns. Interviews. Frosch interlude
This pretty-much-perfect production of Strauss’s pretty-much-perfect operetta is an ideal specimen to demonstrate the visual and sonic virtues of the Blu-ray medium. The Glyndebourne staging is a feast to watch: the sets and costumes are lavish, the dancing accomplished. Opus Arte’s 24-bit PCM sound is way better than anything you’ve ever heard on a traditional DVD, both the stereo version and the spacious multichannel that puts the listener in the middle of the appreciative audience who experienced the real thing in Sussex back in August of 2003.
Director Stephen Lawless has moved the setting of Die Fledermaus ahead a few decades to around 1910, the Vienna of Sigmund Freud and Gustav Klimt. (Eisenstein’s dressing gown, in fact, is a facsimile of Klimt’s The Kiss .) This Fledermaus is clearly viewed as a play that happens to have awfully good music, and Lawless and Daniel Dooner have created new dialogue for the production. In the hands of an ensemble of terrific singing actors, the texts never impede the headlong momentum of this comic masterpiece.
What a cast! Pamela Armstrong, as Rosalinde, handles the part vocally quite well but is equally concerned with her character’s development: when she dresses up as someone else, Eisenstein’s wife discovers her “real self” (as the soprano puts it in one of the disc’s “extras”). Thomas Allen notes that the high tessitura of his role was a bit of a challenge—it sure doesn’t sound it—but his comic timing is impeccable and the man can actually dance. As Dr. Falke, Håkan Hagegård gives his character an edge: the practical joke that Eisenstein played on him months before the curtain rises for act I has deeply wounded him, and Falke is serious about getting revenge. Singing Alfred in an appropriately seductive manner is Swedish tenor Pär Lindskog who, like Allen, is obviously quite a versatile artist. You’d never know from this performance that the guy also sings Siegfried and Parsifal.
The kudos go on. Lyubov Petrova’s rendition of Adele’s big second-act aria is a showstopper and Malena Ernman is utterly convincing as the terminally bored and sexually ambiguous Orlovsky. It’s a surprise every time Ernman starts to sing and her voice jumps up an octave or two. The smaller parts—Dr. Blind, Frank, Ida, Frosch—are all covered quite well.
Vladimir Jurowski takes the music very seriously (as, the notes remind us, did Gustav Mahler) and his leadership of the LPO is spirited and knowingly inflected. To accompany the curtain calls, Jurowski conducts a rousing “Radetzky March.” Opus Arte provides subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish, and Dutch. There’s a generous supply of extras, including cast and costume “galleries” and brief featurettes on the history of the waltz and the new (in 1994) opera house at Glyndebourne, as revisited by the architect who designed it. We also get observations on Fledermaus from Armstrong, Allen, Hagegård, Jurowski, and director Lawless and, to close, some shtick, mostly about champagne, by Udo Samel, the actor who has the speaking role of the jailer Frosch.
Yes, this one’s on my Want List.
FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Picture Format: 1080i High Definition, NTSC 16:9
Sound Format: 2.0 / 5.0 PCM Audio
Region Code: 0 (All Regions)
Menu Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch
Running Time: 198 min
Catalog Number: OA BD7004D
Label: Opus Arte
Composer: Johann Strauss Jr.
Conductor: Vladimir Jurowski
Orchestra/Ensemble: Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, London Philharmonic Orchestra
Performer: Artur Korn, Håkan Hagegård, Lyubov Petrova, Malena Ernman, Pamela Armstrong, Pär Lindskog, Ragnar Ulfung, Thomas Allen