Program booklet »Die Fledermaus«

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DIE FLEDERMAUS (The Bat) COMIC OPERA in three acts Libretto CARL HAFFNER & RICHARD GENÉE Source material Le Réveillon by HENRI MEILHAC & LUDOVIC HALÉVY and Das Gefängnis by Julius Roderich Benedix


2 flutes / 1 piccolo 2 oboes / 2 clarinets 2 bassoons / 4 horns 2 trumpets / 3 trombones timpani / percussion harp / violin I / violin II viola / cello / double bass

AUTOGRAPH Manuscript at City Hall (inventory no. 12000) PREMIÈRE 5 APRIL 1874 Theater an der Wien FIRST PERFORMANCE 28 OCTOBER 1894 Vienna Court Opera DURATION

3 H 30 MIN



SYNOPSIS All the principal characters seem to be drawn as if by a magnet to Prince Orlofsky’s ball, with the exception of the tenor Alfred, who makes fleeting appearances on the sidelines of the action. Adele, a housemaid, is invited (or so she thinks) by her sister Ida and has to make up a heartrending story about a bedridden aunt in order to be given the night off. Her employer Eisenstein, a gentleman of ample means, is persuaded by his friend Dr. Falke to enjoy himself at Orlofsky’s instead of starting a spell in prison to which he has been sentenced for insulting an official. In doing so Falke is pursuing a plan of his own, for on one occasion Eisenstein had made him look a fool in public by getting him drunk at a masked ball and then letting him find his way home dressed as a bat. Now is Falke’s chance for revenge. He therefore also invites Eisenstein’s wife Rosalinda to the ball. Rosalinda is in a flurry because as soon as Eisenstein has gone off, a former admirer of hers named Alfred turns up, pays court to her, and is then arrested by the governor of the prison, Frank, in mistake for Eisenstein. Preening himself over making this arrest, Frank too goes to the ball. All Dr. Falke’s schemes go smoothly. Eisenstein comes upon his housemaid Adele, who stoutly denies who she is. Then he makes friends with Frank, and finally falls in love with his own wife disguised as a Hungarian countess. The third act brings the customary dénouements. It opens in a prison cell made even more murky by the antics of the jailer Frosch, who is never sober. At one time or another all the characters find their way here: first Frank, with a shocking hangover; then Adele, who is on the lookout for a patron to develop her talent for the stage, together with her sister Ida; and then Eisenstein, who learns to his astonishment that he has been in prison all night. When Rosalinda appears on the scene and makes an appointment with Alfred, still under arrest, to visit a lawyer, Eisenstein impersonates the lawyer Dr. Blind and thus finds out what really happened the night before. Fortunately, he is eventually persuaded that it was all part of Dr. Falke’s plan of revenge, and all is well in the end, especially as Adele finds an enthusiastic and wealthy patron in the person of Prince Orlofsky.





First a very basic question: what makes the genre of operetta today so difficult? os Perhaps the fact that it was often written in terrible times and was an avenue of escape to a brighter, easier, more beautiful life. It was a sigh of relief, as Karl Kraus – unjustly – said of The Merry Widow. Today there are so many other alternative ways out of life’s difficulties. Apart from that, there are very few top-class singers who can sing operetta: a Vilja song is simply difficult to sing. ol How many times have you already directed Die Fledermaus? os Six times. In Vienna, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, New York and for television. ol Do you direct operetta for Vienna differently? os No, I don’t adapt to the city. In all cases I am guided by the personalities of the singers. That changes a lot of things, but the intent is always the same. ol Let’s talk about Fledermaus. What are the forces that drive

this operetta? Is there a general tone that must prevail for the piece to succeed? os There are two driving forces in Die Fledermaus. One is sentimentality, abandonment to an excessive mood that is almost hypochondriac. Pure flirtation – that is not necessarily what Fledermaus is about. The other driving force is embarrassment, translated into music. This disgrace is evoked by an almost devilish obsession with entertainment on the part of all those involved. For a start a “damned fellow”, as Nestroy wrote. From Eisenstein to Adele, from the little Russian prince to Rosalinde, from the first bar of the overture all of them are intent on being entertained, no matter what the cost. However, this is a recipe for failure because people are simply not made for such entertainment at any price. Every time someone tries it, something “happens”. This is the strongest driving force behind Die Fledermaus and which results in pseudo-catastrophe. ol Pseudo-catastrophe means that it is in fact not that bad in the event?



os When you buy tickets for an operetta, you are entering a world where – with very few exceptions by Lehár – you are guaranteed to have a happy ending. No matter what happens, you can be amused by it, even if it seems to be bordering on tragedy. A real tragedy does not occur. For example, the lament that on one occasion degenerates into an almost Tchaikovsky-esque trio, the famous “Oh dear” soon deteriorates into a rather silly dance and becomes “Oh dear, oh dear, how sad it is.” ol Are there nevertheless occasions that have a hint of the tragic about them? os Yes. For example, when the mood shifts to being incredibly wistful at the end of this section. At that point the strength to be cheerful has suddenly disappeared. It is almost a farewell to the fading 19th century. Even though this mood does not last long, Strauss shows that he also possesses tragic energy. ol In the second act, the characters dance to Johann Strauss’s Thunder and Lightning polka. Should thunder and lightning be understood figuratively here? os I chose this interlude because I wanted to transport Eisenstein to an almost Venusberg-like bourgeois dance orgy that degenerates into a fanatic dance where all the participants finally fall over. It is perhaps a little symbolic in nature... ol One thing that is striking in Die Fledermaus is that there isn’t a single unlikeable character. Even the intrigue has comic aspects. os On the other hand, there are no characters who are consistently reputable. Every one of them has skeletons in their cupboard. Rosalinde looks

back on a past that almost seems a little hazardous to her. Falke is a schemer. Frank wants to flirt with Adele and educate her, which means: pay her. On her part, she wants to find a job at a theatre and is prepared to perform all kinds of erotic services to achieve that. Society here is somewhat obnoxious and never too far from the surface. ol Is Frosch a part of this somewhat obnoxious society? os Frosch is a feature of the monar­ chy. I regard him as a stranded or trapped militarist, but one who rather likes his situation. In Grandstand for General Staff by Roda Roda there is a corporal who trembles at the idea of being promoted because the position he has allows him to lollygag. This is the character of Frosch. Incidentally, he is never really drunk, but is a man who knows his limits, who can hold his drink: an Austrian characteristic! He thrives on annoying the director; I have played this role more than a hundred times and always depended on a prison director whom I could irritate. With every sentence, every gesture. I am very happy that in this revival the role has been cast with Peter Simonischek and not with a pure “comedian” because the laissez-faire military aspect comes off better this way. Additionally, Frosch does not speak a broad street dialect but one befitting a director. One thing we should not forget, amid all the laughter: it is the most difficult role of all, if for no other reason than that the audience’s expectation is enormous. ol You have kept the famous, traditional Frosch jokes? os The so-called dumb jokes that are all sacred in my view are very much part of the role. They are appallingly



dumb when you read them, but they are justified because Frosch is quite simply someone who makes these kinds of jokes. Shakespeare’s fools also survive on making bad jokes; it only becomes funny when the character is played as someone who just has this kind of humour. ol Then Frosch is not a purely Viennese phenomenon, but comes from the theatre of the world? os Yes, perhaps. But with roots in Viennese humour. ol Like all of Die Fledermaus... os This way of embarrassing oneself, of stepping on the soap, is Viennese. The dances and music are also Viennese. But the performers don’t have to yodel in Viennese, it is simply a matter of the actors feeling at ease in Viennese. This is really the wonderful thing about Vienna and therefore Viennese life style: that so many people feel comfortable with these idiosyncrasies. ol Are there particular pitfalls in this piece, a bat taking its revenge? os First of all, it is a difficult piece, hard to stage. You have to instil a real passion for dancing, for intrigue, and foster an addiction to entertainment in soloists and chorus alike. Infect them to the extent that it brims over, but doesn’t flip into outrage. The hypo­chondria of embarrassment must always be real. Another tricky thing about this work is that it also works in poor performances. That is the danger of Fledermaus. A good performance has a chance, but just as is the case with The Magic Flute, it only takes a bad performance to get things going. Die

Fledermaus needs the very best singers and comedians, it is not enough for the performers just to be able to sing and master the coloraturas or just act. Die Fledermaus needs it all! To bring out the classical in the music you need considerable knowledge of Mozart and an equally significant understanding of Offenbach. Johann Strauss lies between these two, especially where Die Fledermaus is concerned. Because of this, this operetta should only be conducted by a first-class conductor, nothing else will be a good fit. ol Should we feel sorry for Eisenstein at the end? os No, not really. He is simply someone who is on the cusp: not a young rogue, but a man who wants to enjoy his second spring. You can certainly laugh at him a bit! ol The plea for forgiveness at the end – is that an honest admission, a first step to improvement? os When he kneels at the end, it is a bit like the Count’s “perdono” in Figaro. At that moment, Eisenstein certainly believe what he is saying. He really does love Rosalinde and is not contemplating leaving her. He just wanted to celebrate one more time before being arrested. ol How does the story go on? os You never know that with a happy ending. The two of them will probably celebrate their golden wedding anniversary sometime. He will betray her a few times – if he even succeeds in doing so. We don’t even know if Eisenstein really wanted to deceive Rosalinde or simply flirt a bit, if he had the courage to transgress like that. The interview took place in 2011


Following pages: SCENE, ACT 1




FROM VAUDEVILLE TO FLEDERMAUS THE HISTORY OF DIE FLEDERMAUS In summer 1873 the general mood in Vienna was anything but elated and joyful. The first international showcase for industry, trade and commerce to be held in the imperial capital and seat of the Danube monarchy, the huge World’s Fair, brought nothing but problems for the citizens of Vienna. Food prices and rents had risen so sharply that even long before the grand opening, which took place on 1 May in the new Rotunde on the Prater, a general exodus from city centre to the suburbs and the country had begun. And hard on the heels of the opening ceremony, the Vienna stock exchange crashed on 9 May – Black Friday. This catastrophe meant ruin for numerous fraudulent companies, but also for many firms that simply did not have solid financing. Hundreds upon hundreds of speculators along with bona fide financiers from all strata of the population – from service staff to the aristocracy and the general population – were dragged into the vortex of bankruptcy. No one dared record the exact number of suicides. Hopes for a rapid recovery were dashed completely by the extremely bad weather in spring 1873. It rained almost every day until July, with tem-

peratures seldom rising above five degrees Celsius. The result was that the desperately awaited influx of visitors to Vienna from all over the world failed to materialise at first. It soon became clear that the mighty World’s Fair was sure to end in catastrophic losses. Naturally, the theatres in the Danube metropolis were particularly hard hit by the general hardship. Directors sought even more frantically for hit shows that would entice audiences into their theatres even under such unfavourable conditions. Accordingly, the manager of the Theater an der Wien acted fast when the brilliant stage agent Gustav Lewy offered him a hit: the vaudeville play Le Réveillon penned by the two Offenbach librettists Henry Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy. It had been premièred on 10 September 1872 at the Paris Théâtre du PalaisRoyal and was doing extremely well in the repertoire there. Director Maximilian Steiner arranged for the play to be purchased and gave it to his in-house author, the experienced farce writer Carl Haffner, for translation. It quickly turned out that the two Frenchmen had not devised the main elements of the Réveillon plot themselves but had taken them from



the comedy Das Gefängnis by Berlin writer Roderich Benedix. The German comedy was written in 1851 and was well known in Vienna. Even this fact scarcely bothered Director Steiner. Meilhac and Halévy had turned the conservative farce into a “spicy play with typical Paris flair” that was highly likely to please Viennese audiences. Closer examination of the text and settings however revealed that numerous details had been added to Le Réveillon that only the French would be familiar with and readily understand. And Carl Haffner, whose real name was Carl Wilhelm Schlachter and who came from Königsberg, was not able to overcome this serious disadvantage in his rendering for audiences at the Theater an der Wien. Maximilian Steiner therefore offered the play obtained from Paris to his rival from the Carl-Theater, Franz Jauner. This theatre was already making considerable space in its repertoire for French works. The vaudeville play Le Réveillon would be more likely to be understood there. But Director Jauner also declined and returned the play with thanks. Gustav Lewy found a solution to this dilemma: he suggested to Steiner that they turn the play into an operetta libretto for Johann Strauss. The director of the Theater an der Wien was required by his contract to offer a selection of libretti to his composer Strauss. Maximilian Steiner immediately agreed to Lewy’s proposal and gave the project to his conductor Richard Genée. Strauss was persuaded by Lewy to accept this plan; the two of them had been school friends. As a librettist and composer, Genée was very familiar with operettas and

knew immediately what needed to be done. “I read the play,” he said later, “found it dreadful and the next morning requested the French original. I used only the names of the characters in Haffner’s comedy. I also had to deviate quite considerably from the original in the scenes and characters. In order not to offend the revered author Haffner, with my approval he was listed in the programme as a colleague. I myself never saw Haffner.” When Richard Genée started work on the libretto, the summer of discontent was already coming to an end. In August the World’s Fair was finally generating the anticipated excitement. In the consistently good weather in the following weeks, exuberant “Viennese life” was finally in full swing, and those who had been spared the effects of Black Friday now eagerly threw themselves into their recently regained lust for life. There was no changing the financial catastrophe, so to be happy people had to forget it as quickly as possible and try to make the best out of the hardship they had suffered! The change of mood in Vienna also found its way into the new operetta, and Johann Strauss was immediately fascinated when the director Steiner and the composer Genée gave him the libretto. Only the first and third act of Le Réveillon were kept in broad strokes; between the two was an ebullient party and a huge ball. It was exactly the topic that Strauss needed, and above all it was a milieu that offered an abundance of inspiration: a fashionable spa, the idle rich, the quid-pro-quo of carefree drifting in the best circles, one of those grand dukes like those Strauss knew from Saint Petersburg – that was food for his imagination!



A storyline without heavy drama, a happy-go-lucky attitude to events that only lightly parody the tragic, even a prison that didn’t seem entirely serious! Strauss set to work. During the closing ceremonies of the World’s Fair he was totally absorbed in the new operetta. He needed a composition for a welfare concert to benefit the victims of an epidemic that had broken out in Hungary. It was as if heaven-sent; the second act of the piece ingeniously arranged by Genée could use an interlude – ideally a csárdás. Strauss composed it for voice and orchestra, the diva from the Theater an der Wien performed it at the concert on 25 October 1873 at the Musikverein. And a few days later all the newspapers had the news: “Work on a new Strauss operetta has begun. It will probably be called Doctor Fledermaus!” Perhaps Strauss was delayed once more: he had to go to Graz to introduce his prior work The Carnival in Rome; he also had to live up to his reputation and perform pieces by Joseph Lanner and his father with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Musikverein as well as – for the first time! – his waltz The Blue Danube. But after that his world was completely taken up with the new operetta. Strauss wrote the score virtually without a break at his home in Hietzing (at the time Hetzendorfer Strasse, now Maxingstrasse no. 18). Genée was constantly at hand, and when the librettist’s inspiration once failed to render the particular realm of the play in words, Strauss eagerly came to his aid. Genée reciprocated as arranger: “The state of the score,” wrote Fritz Racek, “allows us to picture the working procedure as follows: Strauss first

gave Genée the sketch for a number or a section, Genée prepared the libretto structure and entered the idea received from Strauss, after which he sent the pages back to the composer for addition of the instrumentation and final editing. It could also happen that Strauss left the composition of potpourri-like repetitions – such as entr’acte and melodrama – entirely to his colleague. Each completed section of the score was then immediately forwarded by Genée to the copyist.” This close cooperation also explains how the composer was able to complete more or less the entire operetta – according to credible reports – “in 42 days and nights.” However, the management of the Theater an der Wien had far greater problems staging the work, which was ultimately given the title Die Fledermaus. It turned out that in the aftermath of the stock exchange crash in spring 1873, it was extremely difficult for Vienna’s suburban theatres to survive. While the management hoped to handle the impending financial crisis, the world première of the new Strauss operetta was scheduled for late autumn 1874, in other words the most favourable time of year for theatres. This scheduling was entirely understandable. For the current season, a schedule featuring the opera prima donna Angelina Patti was set; Patti was at the time at the height of her popularity. This was to be followed by a fun medley in line with audiences’ wishes for diverse entertainment just before the summer break. But as the season went on, the situation of the Theater an der Wien became increasingly dire, and finally above all the singer Marie Geistinger, who was



co-director of the theatre together with Maximilian Steiner, believed the risk could not be pushed into autumn. At the end of February, the decision was made to mount the première of the operetta Die Fledermaus in spring 1874 after all. But the initial read-through on 28 February revealed that the the­ atre’s ensemble was not up to the work. As a result a guest performer was hired for the role of Adele and some roles had to be cast with second-choice performers. Rehearsals were then hastily scheduled in parallel with daily operations, which were further strained by the Patti performances, and arduously pressed ahead. The theatre was under pressure to succeed, making everyone correspondingly nervous. Marie Geistinger, who was part of the Fledermaus ensemble as Rosalinde, accordingly determined

that the melodrama at the beginning of Act 3 could be cut: “If no one says anything for that long, it is boring.” Strauss agreed immediately to the proposed cut, but Genée’s objection saved the delightful, choice scene. The première of the operetta Die Fledermaus was finally postponed and scheduled on a patently bad day for theatre: Easter Sunday (5 April). Since on high church festivals, like Easter, theatre performances could only be given for charitable purposes, the operetta was staged for the first time “for the benefit of Emperor Franz Joseph Endowment for small businesses.” The theatre was sold out, Strauss himself conducted the operetta. The piece itself and the performance were without question a decisive success. Small businesses benefited to the tune of more than 1,500 guilders.


Following pages: SCENE, ACT 3



JOHANN STRAUSS JR Immediately after his parents’ divorce, Johann Strauss Jr (born 1825) enrolled as a student with the highly regarded composer Joseph Drechsler. In 1844 he founded his first small orchestra in part possibly “to defy his father” with whom he was constantly competing. The disputes between father and son which, according to legend, were the topic of operettas and novels cannot be reliably substantiated. Without doubt, Strauss Jr must have been affected by having to grow up without his father and seeing his mother’s suffering. To be sure, he also took up music as a profession in defiance of his father. But for posterity it would be much more interesting to hear how Strauss Jr gradually disengaged himself from his father’s waltzes and how long it was before he could dash off popular music like his paternal rival, who after all succeeded in composing music of the calibre of the Radetzky March. When the revolution broke out in Vienna in 1848, Strauss Sr proved to be the loyal subject and stayed calm. His son by contrast played the wild young man for a while and tried to take advantage of the general mood by playing the anthem of the French Revolution, the Marseillaise, now and then. But when at the end of the year Emperor Franz Joseph I had taken over the government and eliminated virtually all opposition, Strauss Jr realised

he had been wrong; wrong above all for a musician who needed the support of the highest circles, honorary positions and impressive titles. Many years later, people at the emperor’s court remembered that the young Strauss was nowhere near as “well-behaved” as his father, and only the evident international renown of waltz composer made it possible for him to win recog­nition not just with audiences but also his noble patrons, eventually as the new and ultimately the only waltz king. When Strauss Sr died in 1849, not surrounded by his family but in the company of his long-time lover, with whom he also had several illegitimate children, Strauss Jr seized the moment: he placed a now well-known advertisement in a Viennese newspaper and asked for the patronage of all his father’s friends. In reality, however, it was the widow, i.e., Johann Strauss Jr’s mother, who ultimately and for many years played the most decisive role in his life. Nevertheless, even with his success in Vienna and on several trips through Europe, Johann Strauss Jr would never have attained the popularity that he in fact came to enjoy during his lifetime. This took several special engagements and several exceptional musical acquaintances. Strauss received a very timely invitation from Russia to give promenade concerts throughout the summer at the terminus of a newly



built railway line. Strauss accepted the invitation and became a musical hero far from his home. He played for important and rich Saint Petersburg residents who used the railway mentioned above; he also played in Saint Petersburg itself, and he returned home with fame and a lot of money. With these appearances abroad, which he repeated for many years, he also won recognition in Vienna. And with his astute practice of playing not just his own compositions at concerts in Vienna but also introducing the newest compositions of his contemporaries as well as performing concert versions of the most popular operas, he won the approval of very important musicians who promoted their Viennese propagandist all over the world. Richard Wagner, for example, whose seemingly revolutionary music was played relatively often by the Strauss Ensemble, was an admirer of some importance to the waltz composer. Hector Berlioz, who was already a friend of Strauss Sr and a financial supporter of concerts in Paris, was really an opponent of Wagner, but in his enthusiasm for Strauss he was in complete agreement with the inventor of musical drama. When he finally moved to Vienna, Johannes Brahms became one of Strauss’s guests and frequently demonstrated his friendship, which was based on the musicality of Johann Strauss. The list of composers goes on, but it is worth noting that although they disagreed on many issues, they were united in their delight at the waltzes of Johann Strauss. Strauss had already written more than three hundred compositions, including the most popular of all his waltzes, when the composer allowed

himself to be persuaded to write an operetta. The major successes of Jacques Offenbach in Vienna and the ambition of his wife were generally seen as the driving force needed to conquer this new genre for the dance composer. Harsh critics wrote from the outset that all Strauss operettas were basically nothing more than expanded waltz sequences and only successful if the corresponding great waltzes could be drawn from them. There is more than a kernel of truth in this criticism; no matter what recent music history has found to criticise in the genre of operetta, the finest examples can be found in most works by Johann Strauss. The strange or even completely illogical storylines, the atrocious treatment of language, the absurd obsession with coming up with situations in which either a grand comic scene or a dance number could be included; Strauss proved extremely successfully that he could fill the most ridiculous operettas with wonderful music and attract and satisfy the audiences of his day not with the particular work but always with several key numbers. Today people claim that Die Fledermaus and Der Zigeunerbaron are exceptions. However, that is very unjust towards all the other Strauss operettas. If one wants to analyse more precisely, you have to agree with Karl Kraus and discount these two works as typical operettas and therefore very superfi­cially constructed stage works. All they have is easily the most melodies, in all other Strauss operettas the so-called jewels are distributed somewhat more sparingly. That is the extent of the difference. And the proof that it was always due to the content, the libretto, can nat-



urally also be used for a Strauss operet­ ta: Eine Nacht in Venedig was initially a complete flop in Berlin but then a succès d’estime at the première in Vienna as a patriotic reaction to the experience with the evil Berlin audience – and much later an operetta from which countless workers earned money because the music of Johann Strauss always brought cheers from the audience, regardless of what was happening on the stage. The catalogue of works by Johann Strauss Jr encompasses 479 opus numbers, almost all his compositions were given their own title either before composition or immediately after the first performance, and the fact that they were dedicated either to mark a special occasion, to a club or a well-known individual helped people distinguish them, keep them in mind, or rhapsodize about them. Strauss Sr, who went down in music history not just as a composer but also as a master of self-promotion, had not just a replacement but a brilliant successor. His methods for winning over audiences and patrons, selling his music and capitalising on his mere presence at a concert made Johann Strauss a genius in his day, the likes of whom the music world has not since produced again. All the tricks used by commercial music today, through to bombastic tours to promote a new long-play record, are paltry attempts to vary the novel ideas of Johann Strauss. And their impact is significantly less than that achieved by Strauss. Without all the means of modern communication, without radio, without television, without records Johann Strauss managed to become world famous with his compositions and effortlessly come up trumps against all the local greats that

naturally existed in his day: waltz composers in Paris, popular music composers in Berlin and Gilbert & Sullivan for the Anglo-American world. He was not denied the recognition due to him. He held a position in the great Austro-Hungarian monarchy that was unparalleled, and he could afford to retire as court music director of his own volition and request the corresponding honours from his emperor. In his request for the order, which has been preserved, Johann Strauss summarized what he had already done for Vienna and the imperial house; despite all the necessary courtly tone, one can nevertheless hear in every sentence the self-confidence of the musician who was the waltz king in an imperial city. His death in 1899 was terrible news for the world, his burial a final triumphal procession through Vienna. The lion’s share of his legacy went to the Society of the Friends of Music, and many of his manuscripts are well protected in the archives. It did not take decades for his fame after death to grow but existed already when he was carried to his grave; it has persisted through generations to the present day. And this was the case not just amongst the public, who continued gratefully dancing waltzes, but also amongst composers who came after Strauss and who further advanced music. Arnold Schoenberg and his school also readily recognised the brilliance of Johann Strauss. Contemporary composers from all over the world have grappled with Strauss. If they find the opportunity, they honour him by attempting to compose a waltz, as Lucian Berio did, or they translate a composition into their own orchestral language, as Dmitri Shostakovich did on several occasions.




A LITTLE EXPERIMENT WITH DIE FLEDERMAUS It is not the fact that the story lacks clarity and comprehensibility that makes the success of Die Fledermaus so surprising. In Il trovatore too the audience is generally in the dark; the only people who can tell the ring story of Minna von Barnhelm off the cuff are directors who have staged the comedy and Germanists; and only someone who is truly well-versed in the power dynamics of Tristan-TantrisMorold-Isolde may throw the first stone at the configuration of BlindFalke-Frank-Eisenstein! No, it is not the Fledermaus story that is the notable feature of the Fledermaus plot and its triumph over the times, but its lack of the kind of action that audiences are accustomed to and entitled to find. The libretto for Die Fledermaus merely flirts with action, but does not consummate it. It is set up but not fulfilled. Die Fledermaus is exposition until well into the second act, and then singing, drinking and dancing take over. The essence does not occur. To be sure, in other musical theatre works love is merely suggested, but is unmistakably stylised: in Act 1 of Tann­­häuser, in Act 2 of Tristan, in Offen-

bach’s cancans, in the grand Masked Ball duet. In Die Fledermaus by contrast eroticism culminates in the lines: “I have a pimple on my nose” – “I don’t believe in the pimple”. And once the fervour kindled by wine has warmed the mood of the guests, they come together merely as “little brother, little sister”. Having the unfaithful wife ultimately return to the unfaithful husband is an age-old stage convention. But where was the infidelity here? The husband loses his watch and gains nothing. The wife is alone at home with her lover, but he immediately reaches for nightshirt and nightcap. He joins up with her, but only for a duet which praises not the delights of love, but the merits of alcohol consumption. In several key numbers of the op­er­et­­­ta, the characters deny reality: in the drinking duet “Happy is the person who forgets what can’t be altered anyway” and then in the couplet sung by Rosalinde, who is married to Eisenstein, she states that Alfred is her husband; and then in the couplet of the chambermaid Adele who claims that she is not a chambermaid – and above



all in the farewell scene in Act 1. The spouses take their leave of each other, bemoaning the sadness of parting, but with its fast-paced brio the music disclaims the wistfulness of the text and transforms the “oh dear” into a song of triumph. The scene becomes a genre painting of bourgeois ethics in the 19th century. You can wonder all your life why Fledermaus of all works has remained evergreen for a hundred years; you will get no further than guesses and conjecture. Successes cannot be predicted, and at best can only be interpreted after the fact – and in music theatre it is never the music alone; something special, a kind of “message” in the libretto must also be present. And what is this something special, what is the “message” in the undramatic Fledermaus storyline? Perhaps it is this manifold denial of reality that has been fascinating all five continents for hundreds of years; perhaps it elevates the libretto into timelessness and so can be called modern. The general grand delusion not far from a big city. Die Fledermaus has no positive heroes, no positive heroine, no positive character, no innocence such as were standard elements of opera and operet­ta until well into this century. Everyone taking part here is dishonest, untruthful, swindling. A vertical cross section of the world of Die Fledermaus reveals the degenerate prince with bestial manners (“I throw quite unashamedly the bottle at his head”), a morally tapped out bourgeoisie, no less demoralising servants, and all this in a nation whose institutions and agencies Act 3 portrays in a state of advanced dissolution. At the top of the

pyramid is the reigning sovereign by the name of “Champagne the First”, as his governor further down the ladder the “Sharp Schnapps Slivovitz” dominates the scene. A comedy without love and without ethos, a drama without dramatic art, a music theatre work without an adequate amount of theatre music, far too little through-composed music, only (in Act 3) one ensemble in the style of the great paragon Jacques Offenbach. Offenbach’s musical form was buffo opera, his libretti were always deliberately critical of the times and satirical, he showed the world in all kinds of disguises and always meant the French of Napoleon III. One single time, in his biggest hit, the characters on the stage were identical to the Parisians in the theatre: in Pariser Leben. Johann Strauss, to whom theatre was alien all his life, lacked a dramatic vein. His talent for composition was fulfilled in the instrumental, the lyrical. He was a dramatist against his will. Doubtless, his librettists wanted to write a kind of Viennese Pariser Leben; they based Die Fledermaus on a comedy by Offenbach librettists Meilhac and Halévy, but their second moulding was not a critical denigration of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The sovereign is acknowledged, not just His Majesty Champagne, the existing order is not negated, it is accepted with cheerful resignation. An entire empire of slackers is unified in the representative cross section of individuals, no one practises their profession properly, the young Eisenstein lives off his bonds, the young chambermaid is “being trained for the theatre”, everyone drinks to forget, they dance, they lie, the password is “amusement”.



Just as in Paris, on the Wien River everyone was meant to recognise themselves on the stage. However, that plan went against tradition, because operetta depends on costumes, on distance, on unreality, on tall tales. However, this time the unreality was not represented by the milieu, but in the “present day” milieu by the actors (“Happy is the person who forgets”) as a way of life. There are many Austrian parallels of this attitude in literature, from Grillparzer’s A Dream is Life to Hofmanns­ thal’s The Difficult Gentleman which shows an Austria that did not exist, but with which contemporaries could nevertheless – or perhaps precisely because of that – identify. This was the idea when Die Fledermaus was written. The outlines of the world being depicted already existed. People could acknowledge it. But when Die Fledermaus was performed for the first time, there was no imaginary bridge between the audito-

rium and the stage; instead there was a chasm. A catastrophic Black Friday changed the world, the stock exchange crash, which triggered an economic crisis, general uncertainty, unease and social unrest. The no-man’s land of intoxication, illusion, playful lies and good living without work was drowned. Intoxication is followed by a hangover. Now, although the costumes were still appropriate, this operetta too showed a distant, fairy-tale milieu. The world of yesterday was transformed into a lost paradise of which the tough new era dreams, that the subsequent present day could long for, regardless of the realisation that the coronation of His Majesty Champagne was indirectly paving the way for the dethronement of the Habsburgs and that the path from the merry prison via the Central European catastrophe of 1873 had led to the “breakdown of the values” of our century.




THE MUSIC OF DIE FLEDERMAUS The best way to keep a composer from composing is to commission him to write something about another composer. That is what happened to me. Day and night I hear the melodies of Die Fledermaus in my head, which naturally makes creative work impossible. So I am trying at least to do a decent job of fulfilling this unusual and honourable task of writing an article about the music of Die Fledermaus for the programme booklet of the Wiener Staatsoper. It is brilliant from start to finish, without flaws or weaknesses. There is no other operetta – perhaps with the exception of Orpheus in the Under­world – of which one might in good conscience make such an asser­ tion. Although other later works of this kind may contain stirring music, tuneful melodies and spirited dances, they all smack of hypocrisy, which is an intrinsic element of the genre. Die Fledermaus is not hypocritical, it simply doesn’t take itself seriously. This ironic aloofness that everyone in the piece has, also from themselves – and which is missing in later operet­ tas – is also reflected in the music of Johann Strauss. Yet this music is much

more than ironic; Strauss elevates it with his genius and his understanding for human weaknesses, and at times he transforms it into almost transcendent beauty. For this reason, the ensemble “Little brother, little sister” reminds me of another piece that we hear in a similarly dramatic situation: the canon quartet in the Act 2 finale of Così fan tutte. It is not just the striking analogies to Figaro and Così that bring Mozart to mind. It is also the inexhaustible wealth of invention and on the technical side the instrumentation. After Mozart, apart from Mendelssohn there are no other composers who combine the lightness and translucent orchestral sound with such a varied richness of sounds, particularly in the woodwinds. An additional factor with Strauss is the occasional use of the trumpet and frequent use of percussion instruments and the harp. And above all naturally we hear Strauss’s own instrument, the violin. Strauss’s innovation is primarily instrumental. Although he borrows buffo elements from Italian opera (for Dr Blind) there is no trace of belcanto. Instead the influence of Alpine folk mu-



sic is very evident, with yodellers and the harmony of the vocal polyphony. Strauss loves the dominant ninth chord and frequently resolves it to a tonic triad with added sixth. This tonic “added sixth chord” is a first step to the “emancipation of the dissonance” and supposedly only becomes customary with the French Impressionists. As a result, “corrections” have consistently been made, e.g. in “Little Brother...” an “improper” D was changed to C. Incidentally, the first dominant seventh chord occurs in Schubert when the strings enter in the finale of the great C major symphony (an early, unique example is a moment in the funeral march in Handel’s Saul). In the melody we frequently come across big seventh, octave and even ninth intervals that somewhat complicate the vocal line, because the singers constantly have to change register. Composers of the Second Viennese School (all great admirers of Johann Strauss) often referenced these leaps to provide historic justification for their own disjunct treatment of the vocal line. In many melodies, the lower, altered appoggiatura (“Happy is the person who forgets”) is very characteristic of Strauss. According to conventional harmony theory, the leading tone must resolve up, and here it is often the melodic highlight (“When I play the innocent from the country”). Next I must mention the importance of dance music in Die Fledermaus. The majority of the numbers are dance-like in nature: waltz, polka, cancan, galop, csárdás. We find almost the complete European dance repertoire here, as well as Spanish, Russian and Polish dances. With this Strauss proves himself to be a cosmopolitan european.

Apart from Mozart and perhaps Liszt, there was no other composer so receptive to different European cultures, and this is why he is still so relevant today. At this point I would like to quote from one of my favourite books. Salvador de Madariaga, the great Spanish-­ Basque philosopher and historian who is now almost forgotten, written in exile in 1950 in his portrait of Europe: “This ... character of the spirit of Vienna seems to predestine it for the role of capital of Europe. Here all affinities and varieties of the European soul readily find acceptance. German and Italian, French and Oriental, associated through history with the mouth of the Rhine and with Spain – for nearly two hundred years the Viennese court spoke Spanish – as Jewish as only one European capital ever was, Vienna is already a European microcosm. May freedom soon be restored to it, and with it that of the European continent of which it is the natural centre.” Today Vienna’s freedom and that of the European continent have been restored. Is it not time for the original ballet to be performed in the Act 2 finale of Die Fledermaus, with Spanish, Scottish, Russian, “Bohemian” and Hungarian dances? I will take the liberty of adding several observations on the organic structure of the work. The first three sections of the overture use music from the last trio (Eisenstein’s “Yes, I am he” and the theme of Alfred’s “What are these questions supposed to mean?”) and also from the Act 3 finale (theme during clarification of the bat drama). This effectively ties the entire work together. – Incidentally despite all claims to the contrary the overture is not in sonata form. – The orchestra mel-



ody at the beginning of the party (“A supper-party is beckoning us”) is already heard as a quasi leitmotif in Adele and Alfred’s Act 1 music when they are talking about the party. The “main waltz” has the two-part A-B form typical of all Strauss waltzes, although here, as frequently happens, the A section closes on the third interval and the B section begins on the fourth, so here again different from the modulation to the dominant as prescribed by traditional theory of form. The ensembles are magnificent, even if the personal characterisation of the individual is neglected. Rosa­ linde and Eisenstein sing the same melody to make completely contrary statements – evidence that Strauss’s musical ideas did not originate in the words. All the main characters have their individual number, mostly embedded in more expansive music, with one exception: Eisenstein. Why? He is the dupe, a passive character with whom all the others play their games. He only comes up trumps towards the end (“Yes, it’s me”), thereby taking the initiative. It is interesting to note that the men’s roles do not really belong in any specific ”fach”, all are written in the

treble clef and even the ladies’ roles are swappable. Apparently the vocal quality of individual singers did not inspire the composer at all, unlike Mozart and Verdi. We can make only brief mention of performance practice for Die Fledermaus, even though discussion of this topic always inflames passions. It revolved around tempi, rubati, fermatas, caesuras, faithfulness to the original or “traditional” interpretations (according to Mahler: “sloppiness”). Nevertheless audiences always got to hear the music of Strauss. However, on some occasions they scarcely recognised what was going on on the stage; to be sure it was a different kind of performance practice... Finally allow me a very personal remark that is not meant ironically. The “Little brother, little sister” aria and chorus achieved sexual emancipation, at least on the stage, as long ago as 1874. This music is also truly Austrian; everyone knows it and it certainly fits the mentality of our fun-loving society. Why is it not used as a national anthem instead of indulging in years and years of unspeakable discussions about “daughters and sons”?





DIE FLEDERMAUS IN VIENNA In September 1872 Maximilian Steiner, director of the Theater an der Wien, purchased the rights to the Pari­ sian comedy Le Réveillon by French authors Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, who used the comedy Das Gefängnis by Roderich Benedix as their source material. Meilhac and Halévy are known to us as the authors of the libretto for Carmen. Steiner’s enthusiasm for the libretto faded, and he passed the rights on to his director colleague at the Carl-Theater, Franz Jauner, who had a German translation prepared by Karl Haffner. Now Steiner took up the project again and engaged Richard Genée to write a libretto for Johann Strauss. Today, we know that Genée also assisted the waltz king with the composition and orchestration. Die Fledermaus was the third music drama written by Johann Strauss; previous works were Indigo and the Forty Thieves (1871) and The Carnival in Rome (1873). Later works in this genre were Cagliostro in Vienna (1875), The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief (1880), The Merry War (1882), A Night in Venice, (1883), The Gypsy Baron (1886) and Jabuka (1894), amongst others. It was not obvious after the première that GEORG NIGL as EISENSTEIN JOHANNES SILBERSCHNEIDER as FROSCH

Die Fledermaus would come to occupy such a special place in the repertoire; the libretto in particular was regarded by many critics as the weak point in the work. Soon however alongside the success of the Blue Danube Waltz, the work was to become synonymous with Viennese music. In the surviving reviews, we frequently encounter the saying that Vienna played a part in the composition of Die Fledermaus, just as it had with Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Beethoven’s Pastorale symphony and Schubert’s C-major symphony. Johann Strauss himself conducted the world première of his Fledermaus on 5 April 1874 at the Theater an der Wien, the sets were designed by Alfred Moser (incidentally, new sets were built only for the first and second act), costumes were made by head costume designer Schulze and the furniture was provided by the heirs of imperial-royal purveyor to the court Rudolf Kitschelt, as we read in the programme. The dances were arranged by ballet master Therese von Kilany, the setting was listed but not precisely defined as a spa near a city. Appearing as Rosalinde, the star of the evening was Marie Geistin­ ger, the prima donna and co-director of the Theater an der Wien. Caro-



line Charles-Hirsch sang Adele, Irma Nittin­ger was Prince Orlofsky (listed on the programme for the première as “ Orlofski”, later as “Orlowski” or “ Orlowsky ”). The Hungarian tenor Jani Szika was Eisenstein, Carl Adolf Friese the prison governor Frank, Alfred Schreiber was Frosch, Hans Rüdinger and Carl Matthias Rott sang Alfred and Dr Blind, and the 25 yearold baritone Ferdinand Lebrecht, who died just a few months after the première, sang Dr Falke. In the five-section ballet music corresponding to different nationalities (Spanish – Scottish – Russian – Polka – Hungarian), now unjustly fallen into oblivion, one striking element was a solo for the young dancer Angelina Bonesi. According to contemporary reports, the most enthusiastic applause was heard after the overture, at the beginning of the trio in the Act 1 finale (“Sir, what can you be thinking of me?”), Rosalinde’s Csárdás (which Ms Geistinger had already presented at a charity concert at the Musikverein on 25 October 1873) and the Kiss Waltz (“Little brothers and little sisters”) in the Act 2 finale. Adele and Orlofsky’s solos, the duet between Rosalinde and Eisenstein, the champagne chorus in Act 2, the melodrama (by Genée) and the revenge trio in Act 3 were also eagerly received. In just 65 days Die Fledermaus was performed 49 times. The 100th performance of the work – listed on the première programme as “comic operetta” but called “musical comedy” or “burlesque with dance music” by the reviewers – took place at the Theater an der Wien in 1876, the 200th performance in 1888 and the 300th in 1899, the year Strauss died.

Two decades after the world première, by which time Die Fledermaus had long since won recognition as a master­ piece in its genre, the work was performed as part of a matinée (starting at 2 p.m.) at the Vienna Court Opera. The performance was to “bene­ fit the pension fund of the Court Opera” as part of the celebrations marking Strauss’s 70th birthday on 28 October 1894, when Wilhelm Jahn was director. Despite significantly higher ticket prices, the performance conducted by court music director Johann Nepomuk Fuchs was sold out soon after being announced. Paula Mark sang Rosalinde, Ellen Forster sang Adele, Lola Beeth was Orlofsky, Josef Ritter was Frank, Benedikt Felix sang Falke, Andreas Dippel played Alfred, and Anton Schittenhelm was Dr Blind. The solo dancer Karo­line Skoffitz played Ida, the very versatile August Stoll was Frosch and the chorister Thomas Koschat was Ivan. The tenor Fritz Schrödter found a new signature role as Eisenstein and went on to perform it around 120 times at the Court Opera until 1920. Among those present at the ball scene in Act 2 were the great performers of the Vienna opera ensemble of the day, such as Ernest van Dyck and (booked for later performances) Hermann Winkel­mann, Georg Müller, Theodor Reich­mann and Carl Grengg. The Act 2 finale had to be repeated, and the audience demanded a reprise of the entire performance. In subsequent years individual performances of Die Fledermaus to benefit the pension fund were always scheduled, generally as matinée perfor­ man­ ces. The role of Rosalinde was sung by Georgine von Januschofsky, Marie Re­nard, Jenny Pohlner and Marie



Ottmann, that of Adele by Julie Kopácsi-Karczag (amongst others) as a guest performer from the CarlTheater, Orlofsky by Irene Abendroth, Alfred by Franz Naval and Elise Elizza, who later sang Rosalinde and Adele at the Court Opera, was applauded as Ida. When Gustav Mahler took over musical direction of the work, on 31 October 1897 Die Fledermaus advanced for the first time to an evening performance in which the famous bass Wilhelm Hesch sang the new jailer Frosch. In later performances Josef Hellmesberger took over musical direction and the beloved comedian Alexander Girardi performed the role of Frosch; on 22 May 1899 Johann Strauss gave his last celebrated public appearance as conductor. Just two and a half weeks later, on 9 June 1899, Die Fledermaus appeared on the schedule of the Court Opera again, conducted this time by Hellmesberger and as a memorial ceremony for the composer, who had died a few days earlier. This is also the date from which the work was included in the regular repertoire of the opera house. Thirteen performances had taken place by the end of 1899. The cast listed on the programme of the piece, now called “comic opera”, was already known, but a concert version of the Blue Danube waltz was inserted before Act 2. In later years the interludes in the Act 2 ball scene changed; appearances by popular singers were alternated with performances by the Opera Ballet, such as the Tales from the Vienna Woods. On 31 December 1900 the first New Year’s Eve performance of Die Fledermaus took place at the Vienna Court Opera; this practice is now very much taken for granted.

On 31 May 1915, Fritz Schrödter, the magnificent performer of the role of Eisenstein, left the Court Opera ensemble after a performance of Die Fledermaus; however, five years later he returned to perform his signature role again at the theatre now downgraded to simple “opera theatre”. In 1916 the work was performed under the musical direction of later opera director Franz Schalk (with Maria Jeritza as Rosalinde and Carola Jovanović as Adele), and on 26 December 1920 the work was performed with Richard Strauss on the podium. In addition to Jeritza and Schrödter, this time the celebrated tenor Leo Slezak sang Alfred, Elisabeth Schumann was Adele, Karl Zeska was Frank and Ferdinand Maierhofer performed the role of Frosch. And in 1922 the Vienna State Opera had an ideal cast with Vera Schwarz as Rosa­ linde, Richard Tauber as Eisenstein and Slezak as Alfred; also in the cast were Schumann as Adele, Olga Bauer von Pilecka as Orlofsky, Alfred Jerger as Frank and Karl Norbert as Frosch. A new production on the old sets dating back to 1894 took place on 11 October 1924. Hugo Reichenberger was musical director, Rosalinde and Adele were sung by Schwatz and Schumann, Tauber was Eisenstein again, and Norbert was Frosch. The role of Alfred was now performed by Karl Aagard Oestvig, with Hans Duhan as Frank, Marie Olszewska as Orlofsky and Karl Renner as Falke; of particular note amongst the solo dancers were Willy Fränzl and Tilly Losch. The famous Lotte Lehmann sang Rosalinde at the Vienna State Opera just one time; on that date, 27 May 1930, the work was conducted by Bruno Walter, Karl Ziegler was Eisen­stein, Karl Hammes was Falke.



On 31 December 1937 a new version of Die Fledermaus by Alfred Jerger was performed; Josef Krips was the conductor, Margit Bokor was Rosalinde singing the Csárdás in Hungarian (later Else Schulz, Esther Réthy and Maria Reining among others took over this role), Adele Kern sang Adele, Rosette Anday was Orlofsky, the celebrated Palestrina actor Josef Witt was Eisen­ stein, Richard Sallaba was Alfred, William Wernigk was Falke and Hans Duhan was Frank. The Hungarian comedian Szöke Szakáll disconcerted audiences as Frosch, Richard Tauber by contrast was cheered after his appearance in Act 2. Willy Fränzl choreographed the Blue Danube waltz, Stella Junker designed the new costumes. Many interesting performances of Die Fledermaus were also given at the location of the world première, the Theater an der Wien. Of these we mention only four here. In 1900 the Australian coloratura soprano Ada Colley was one of the guests in Orlofsky’s ballroom; she delighted audiences with music by Wilhelm Ganz and Fried­ rich von Flotow and with the repeated high As; in 1901 Die Fledermaus ushered in the era of directors Wilhelm Karczag and Georg Lang with a beautifully decorated and dazzlingly renovated theatre ( Julius Spielmann was Eisenstein, Eduard Binder was Frank, Ludmilla Gaston was Orlofsky, Karl Meister was Alfred, Betty Stohan was Adele, Aurelie Révy sang Rosalinde, Max Garrison sang Falke and Eduard Steinberger was Frosch). On 1 April 1905 musical director Robert Bodanzky conducted the first performance of Die Fledermaus in the new “Paris setting”; however, the new

component of the production was primarily newly made costumes in “Second Empire” style. Before the performance, Adolf Weisse recited a festive prologue by Ignaz Schnitzer, and after the performance Strauss’s early waltz Sinngedichte (op. 1) was played. Karl Streitmann as Eisenstein led the ensemble which included Wolff (Rosa­ linde), Walde (Adele) and Wünsch (Orlofsky). On 11 January 1930 a celebratory performance was given to honour the director Karl Tuschl, with Hubert Marischka singing Eisenstein, Luise Helletsgruber as Rosalinde, Rita Georg as Adele, Luise Kartousch as Orlofsky and Ferdinand Maierhofer as Frosch. On 25 January 1907 director Rainer Simons included Die Fledermaus in the repertoire of the Kaiser-Jubiläums-Stadttheater, now Volksoper. Despite the thorough rehearsing under Alexander von Zemlinsky, performance of the work later put on in such outstanding quality was a disappointment. Karl Waschmann sang Eisenstein, Helene Oberländer was Rosalinde, Emmy Petko was Adele, Rudolf Hofbauer was Frank and Gusti Stagl sang Orlofsky. Curiosities: a performance of Die Fledermaus at Vienna’s Carl-Theater (22 November 1883) had to be aborted during the overture due to a defect in the safety curtain, and two appearances by Leo Slezak in the role of Alfred on a single day (11 January 1930) both at the Theater an der Wien and the Staatsoper. These round out the highlights of the story of Fledermaus performances before the Second World War. After the war, the piece could only be seen at the temporary quarters of the bombed out Staatsoper, the Volks­ oper building: from 1945 to 1955 with



Josef Witt and Fred Liewehr as Eisenstein, Sena Jurinac, Hilde Güden and Gertrude Grob-Prandl as Rosalinde, Wilma Lipp and Rita Streich as Adele, Rosette Anday, Marta Rohs as Orlofsky, Anton Dermota and Kurt Preger as Alfred, Hans Braun and the young Eberhard Waechter as Falke, and Alfred Poell, Alfred Jerger and Richard Eybner as Frank, amongst others. In the 1950 new production a tenor – Rudolf Christ – performed the role of Orlofsky for the first time. Die Fledermaus moved into the newly opened Staatsoper in 1955 with a magnificent première of the production by Leopold Lindtberg on 31 December 1960. Under the musical direction of Herbert von Karajan the performers were Waechter (now as Eisenstein), Güden (Rosalinde), Streich (Adele), Gerhard Stolze (Orlofsky), Giuseppe Zampieri (Alfred), Walter Berry (Falke), Erich Kunz (Frank), Peter Klein (Blind), Elfriede Ott (Ida) and Josef Meinrad (Frosch); the Act 2

ball also included an appearance by Giuseppe Di Stefano. The current Otto Schenk production has already been performed more than twice as many times as the 71 performances of the former production (until 1 January 1979). In the première on 31 December 1979, under musical director Theodor Guschl­ bauer artists such as Bernd Weikl (Eisenstein), Lucia Popp (Rosalinde), Edita Gruberova (Adele), Brigitte Fassbaender (Orlofsky), Josef Hopferwieser (Alfred) and Helmuth Lohner (Frosch) appeared alongside Walter Berry and Erich Kunz as Falke and Frank. With few exceptions, since the Second World War the tradition of performing Die Fledermaus on New Year’s Day has been upheld. This applied not just to the Staatsoper, but even more so to the Volksoper, where in 2011 a production designed by Heinz Zednik was scheduled. A masterpiece like Die Fledermaus is quite rightly often and happily performed in the city where its world première took place.



VIENNESE SOUND STYLE? Austria, frequently called the “Land of Music” with an internationally lauded unique music tradition: does it really exist? Can it even exist in an interconnected world, in a Europe that is growing ever closer together? Or, to put it differently: Do the Viennese really play the Vienna waltz with more Viennese flair than anyone else? I believe the answer is: yes. That little bit of slapdash, the particularly sweet-sounding violin, the upbeat delayed just a hair: all these things make up the typical style that derives from the Bohemian, Hungarian and Jewish style of making music! Our great Viennese orchestras follow this tradition that without question gives them very specific character and colour, a tradition that they treasure and pass on to this day. Unfortunately, there is a trend around the world that is not detri­ mental resulting from styles of musicianship being matched. The sharp lines between local characteristics are becoming increasingly blurred. Orchestras, instrumentalists and singers are starting to sound more and more like each other. Specific styles are being lost, and we are moving increasingly towards a “world sound” that can be heard in all the major centres of music. There are several reasons for this. First, naturally artists today have the possibility of travelling all over the world. The fixed ensemble of singers that we were bound to for many years is now almost non-existent. When you look at casts, a handful of singers sing the same roles at all the major houses. Today in Tokyo, tomorrow New York – that has not presented a problem for a long time.



In addition, directors and conductors also travel extensively. This makes it difficult for opera houses to develop their own tradition. And even orchestra educators have become mobile, with the result that the orchestras they maintain all have a very similar sound. Earlier it was easy to distinguish between a French, a German and an American orchestra. But today? It is seldom possible! Only individual personalities, such as James Levine at the Met and Zubin Mehta with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, still nurture their own sound style. Vienna too – and I am especially pleased about this – is another exception. Furthermore, Vienna has a fantastic State Opera Orchestra where the majority of the musicians of the Wiener Philharmoniker are engaged. That is truly a privilege in our Vienna opera world!... Especially for a singer, making music with one another and responding to each other is particularly important! To know that you can depend on an orchestra in tricky situations is by no means something to be taken for granted. That is the unique thing about the Wiener Staatsoper Orchestra , this ability to get along together; it is something I have not experienced anywhere else in the world. But to come back to international sound culture. Apart from extensive travel, the CD market has also led to standardization is playing style. The widespread distribution of recordings promotes the development of certain standards that determine the market and shape listening habits. Audiences accordingly expect exactly what they know from their recordings in the concert hall or on the opera stage. They are no longer willing to accept idiosyncrasies but prefer “ready-made” items. Unfortunately I have the feeling that these days it is more about the event and less about the enjoyment of hearing an opera or going to a play. I have no idea whether that will change in the medium or long term or even whether that will be beneficial to the development of opera. But I do believe that we should have the courage – I have been a staunch supporter of a united Europe from the outset – not to hide our regional identities and should also be just a bit proud of what it is that makes us what we are.


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DIE FLEDERMAUS SEASON 2023/24 P R E M I È R E O F T H E P R O D U C T I O N 3 1 ST D E C E M B E R 1 9 7 9 Publisher WIENER STAATSOPER GMBH, Opernring 2, 1010 Wien Director DR. BOGDAN ROŠČIĆ Music Director PHILIPPE JORDAN Administrative Director DR. PETRA BOHUSLAV General Editors SERGIO MORABITO, OLIVER LÁNG, ANDREAS LÁNG Design & concept EXEX Layout & typesetting MIWA MEUSBURGER Image concept: MARTIN CONRADS, BERLIN (Cover) Printed by PRINT ALLIANCE HAV PRODUKTIONS GMBH, BAD VÖSLAU TEXT REFERENCES The Synopsis and the texts by Franz Mailer and Hans Weigel were taken from the première programme of the Vienna State Opera 1979; the interview with Otto Schenk and the texts by Iván Eröd and Michael Jahn were taken from the programme of the Vienna State Opera 2011; the text by Franz Endler is from: Musik in Wien – Musik aus Wien, Österreichischer Bundesverlag; the text by Heinz Zednik is from: Mein Opernleben, Edition Steinbauer 2007 IMAGES: Cover Image: Bacchus mask; Photo: DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI / De Agostini; Performance photos Michael Pöhn / Wiener Staatsoper GmbH (p. 2, 3, 5, 16, 17, 30), Axel Zeininger / Wiener Staatsoper GmbH (p. 10, 11, 21), Archive of the Wiener Staatsoper (p. 24). ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS Andrew Smith. Reproduction only with approval of Wiener Staatsoper GmbH / Dramaturgy. Holders of rights who were unavailable regarding retrospect compensation are requested to make contact.


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