Strauss: Die Fledermaus / Haider, Mikolaj, Reiss, Edelmann, Holecek

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It is certainly the case that there have been many recordings of Die Fledermaus , perhaps not quite as many as Strauss’s “Blue Danube” Waltz, but still quite a significant number. Contemporary listings put the total of commercial recordings of this perennial favorite at about 25, with another 10 or so on video. Not as impressive perhaps, when compared to La traviata or Carmen , but quite a large number for a mere operetta. Johann Strauss II’s most popular stage work has proved to be also the most popular of all operettas. So much so that we may ask “do we really need another recording of Die Fledermaus ?” Well, no, we probably don’t; there are some fine sets out there with some very famous singers. At least that was my thinking going into this review.

But what we are given here is a sparkling little gem. Recorded for radio broadcast in Cologne, Germany in 2010, it never puts a foot wrong. The singing, with choral and orchestral accompaniment is nearly ideal. Of course, it is cut to fit a time slot, probably 90 minutes, and there is virtually no dialogue, hence no jailer Frosch. Other internal cuts are also taken, repeats and second verses, but none particularly missed. The waltz music that usually replaces Strauss’s ballet in the party act is here cut to under two minutes. But the music we do hear is all performed quite excellently, as strong an overall performance as I have heard, particularly for an operetta where you often encounter some lesser talents. I listened to the current Met version last month; this Capriccio disc is better. All of the ladies sing very well, as do the men. You can see who they all are in the headnote above. Except for Rainer Trost, none is particularly well known. Tenor Trost sings the role of Alfred just as well as Nicolai Gedda did, high praise indeed, although some of his act III antics are cut. Perhaps the Prince Orlofsky of Natascha Petrinsky is not quite what one hears from a Brigitte Fassbaender, but that is my only quibble, musically.

I do not propose to waste your time comparing this disc to 25 others, but if you want it on audio my advice is to get it in German and get one with dialogue. English librettos are quite easy to obtain for this operetta to allow you to follow along. Most of the English sung versions are not really serviceable, missing the Gemütlichkeit of the German original. Of course, my general observation about operettas applies here as well: It’s better to watch ‘em. Of the 10 versions of Fledermaus on video there are several good ones, some with so many guest appearances in the party scene you forget what’s going on. This Capriccio disc is probably not a game changer in the overall pantheon; it is cut and has no dialogue. But, as I said, it is a little jewel, 90 minutes of unadulterated pleasure, and I am certainly keeping my copy. Recommended.

FANFARE: Bill White

Product Description:

  • Release Date: January 28, 2014

  • Catalog Number: C5167

  • UPC: 845221051673

  • Label: Capriccio

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Composer: Johann Strauss Jr.

  • Conductor: Friedrich Haider

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Cologne West German Radio Chorus, Cologne West German Radio Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Aga Mikolaj, Chen Reiss, Paul Armin Edelmann, Rainer Trost, Sebastian Holecek