That would be 1899, as the Met’s new production of Die Fledermaus (the Bat) is set on that turn-of-the-century date, not a bad idea. A full house did not turn up last night, the eve of the polar vortex’s worst day in New York so far. But many of us did come and it was a pretty good show. Based on ideas from Gustav Klimt’s paintings, the production is (I think) gorgeous, the first act in red and gold,
the second in black and gold with a glorious room-sized chandelier
and the third in black and white when the Revenge of the Bat is fully accomplished in the local prison.
The roles were covered beautifully and the conducting very fine. This old Viennese favorite is by Johann Strauss the younger or II (who composed all the famous waltzes and polkas that you know–“Tales From the Vienna Woods,” “The Blue Danube” etc.,), son of JS the elder (“The Radetzky March,” etc.) who spent a lifetime trying to live up to his son. No relation, btw, to Richard Strauss, of Rosenkavalier fame.
The music is wonderful and worth hearing no matter what the language. Now fully translated into what I think must be called New York English, it is sometimes funny and sometimes not so much. The cringe-worthy jokes about other European countries, the lapses into awkward Yiddishisms, and the strange attempts to try to approximate the German familiar “du” form are not the high points. But I think it’s a good idea to try to get close to the original operetta feeling–something like our Broadway musicals for the Viennese. And in fact, this production uses several Broadway creators.
The can-can girls, obviously not considered shocking enough for today’s audiences, have been replaced by scantily clad French dancers who do a lot of dancing in this production–
certainly a bit too much during the Countess’s czardas.
We still chuckle at the bad French jokes between the two non-French nobles and laugh with bored Prince Orlofsky at the ultimate discomfiture of the Bat’s players. This image of turn-of-the-century Vienna as all waltzes and whipped cream is not the same Vienna in the uncomfortable sometimes cruel stories of Arthur Schnitzler which may be nearer the mark. For us, however, Fledermaus is still a good joke filled with great music and worth seeing.
BTW, to hear the ultimate versions of “Tales from the Vienna Woods” and “The Blue Danube,” take a look at Merry Melodies’ A Corny Concerto on youtube with Bugs, Daffy and Elmer.
The Met will be doing more performances of Fledermaus in January and February and again, you can get tickets for as little as $25, especially during the week.