STRAUSS II, J.: Die Fledermaus (The Bat) (Schwarzkopf, Gedda, Karajan) (1955) (Naxos Historical: 8.111036-37)
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Johann Strauss II
Die FledermausOperetta in 3 Acts
Libretto by Haffner and Genee
from a French comedy, Le Reveillon
, by Meilhac and HalevyGabriel von Eisenstein
- Nicolai Gedda (tenor)Rosalinde
- Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)Alfred
- Helmut Krebs (tenor)Adele
- Rita Streich (soprano)Frank
- Karl Donch (baritone)Dr. Falke
- Erich Kunz (baritone)Prince Orlofsky
- Rudolf Christ (tenor)Dr. Blind
- Erich Majkut (tenor)Speaking parts: Frosch
- Franz BoheimIda
- Luise MartiniPhilharmonia Orchestra and Chorus
Herbert von Karajan, conductor
Recorded 26th-30th April, 1955 in Kingsway Hall, LondonFirst issued on Columbia 33CX 1309 and 1310
Reissue Producer and Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn The origins of what eventually became known as Die Fledermaus
first crossed a number of international boundaries. In 1851 a play entitledDas Gefangnis
(The Prison) by Roderick Benedix appeared in Berlin. This was a low-brow comedy of errors, brim full of mistaken identities. 21 yearslater the Frenchmen Louis Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, librettists for bothBizet and Offenbach, produced a spirituel vaudeville
in Paris, based on The Prison
, which they entitled Le reveillon
(Supper onChristmas Eve). Max Steiner, co-director of the Theater an der Wien in Vienna acquired the Austrian rights to the play and felt it would be an ideal vehicle forJohann Strauss to set to music. Carl Haffner had translated the French playinto German but the idea of a midnight supper party of the original caused someproblems and, furthermore, Steiner was unhappy with Haffner's efforts. Thedistinguished librettist Richard Genee, also a conductor and composer, was thendrafted in to rework the play for Viennese audiences, the location now beingset in 'a spa town outside a big city'. He also contributed a great deal to thefinished musical score.
The operetta was sketched out in seven weeks but took sixmonths to reach the stage. It has been inaccurately described as an initialfailure. The work ran for just sixteen performances after its premi?â?¿re on 5 April1874, but the theatre had been previously booked to accommodate a visitingcompany, after which the operetta was again reinstated at the Theater an der Wien.
Both Mahler and Richard Strauss conducted the work at the Court Opera in Vienna. London later enjoyed a celebrated 1930 production conducted by Bruno Walter and in1950 the new Austrian-born General Manager Rudolf Bing inaugurated a celebratedproduction at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. The work has been filmedon a number of occasions (1931 and 1955, the latter as Oh! Rosalinda
andset in post-1945 Vienna), adapted as Gay Rosalinda
in 1945 for a London production conducted by Richard Tauber (he also recorded the Overture which isincluded on CD 2, Track 11), and translated into a variety of languages. Littlewonder, therefore, that it remains Johann Strauss's most popular stage work.
The characters include Gabriel von Eisenstein, described asa man of private means, his wife Rosalinde, Frank, a prison governor, PrinceOrlofsky, his singing teacher Alfred, Doctor Falke, a notary, Doctor Blind, alawyer, Adele, Rosalinde's maid, Ida, her sister, and Frosch, a jailer, whichis a spoken part. Mixed with a touch of intrigue, a dash of sparkle and thatindefinable thing called genius, and you have what is now recognised as one ofthe finest of all operettas.
The first complete recording of Die Fledermaus
wasmade under Bruno Seidler-Winkler in Berlin in 1907. In 1928 an electricallyrecorded abridged version appeared under Hans Weigert but it was not until September1950 that another complete studio recording was made, this time in Vienna under Clemens Krauss, a very last-minute replacement for an ailing Josef Krips. Thisjustly famous set sadly omitted any dialogue. For this recording the text wassuitably edited by its producer, Walter Legge (1906-1979).
The year 1954 saw the introduction of experimental binauralor stereo recording. In the United States RCA had begun in December 1953 and bythe latter part of the following year were using the new system in parallel withthe established single channel or mono sound. In Europe Decca began recordingwith the binaural system in May 1954 and during July and August had even recordedthree complete operas in Rome. EMI followed in February 1955 with orchestralrecording and by early April Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Walter Gieseking recordeda collection of Mozart songs, produced by her husband Walter Legge. One mightthen ask why Legge did not make use of this new system for the recording of DieFledermaus
later that month. The problem lay with the producer himself, whoquite failed to recognise the great advance in recorded sound that stereo gaveand would continue to give. He saw the new system simply in terms of channel separation,not as an overall balanced and homogenised quality of sound with both width anddepth. It was without doubt Walter Legge's gravest artistic misjudgement, onethat would cost his recording company dearly in the next few years. The use ofstereo sound would indeed have have greatly enhanced the impact of thisrecording of Die Fledermaus
The r?â??le of Rosalinde is sung by the German soprano ElisabethSchwarzkopf
(b. 1915). She studied at the Berlin Hochschule f?â??r Musik andlater with the soprano Maria Ivog?â??n, making her debut as one of the Flowermaidensin Parsifal
with the Stadtische Oper, Berlin in 1938. Originally alyrical soprano she undertook r?â??les such as Adele in Die Fledermaus
, Musettain La Boh?â?¿me
and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos
when she joinedthe Vienna State Opera under Karl Bohm in 1943. Her first overseas appearancewas with this company on their visit to London in 1947, when she sang DonnaElvira, and Marzelline in Fidelio
. She then joined the fledglingpermanent Covent Garden Company, where for five seasons she sang a variety of r?â??les,mostly in English. Alongside these appearances, Schwarzkopf sang at theSalzburg Festival (1946-1964), La Scala, Milan (1948-1963), San Francisco(1955- 1964) and, finally, the Metropolitan in New York in 1964. She wasgreatly admired in the r?â??les of the Marschallin, Fiordiligi, Donna Elvira, andthe Countess in Le nozze di Figaro
. She also had a distinguished parallelcareer as a Lieder singer in the concert hall. She was the wife of theimpresario and recording producer Walter Legge, whom she married in 1953.
The r?â??le of Eisenstein is taken by the Swedish tenor NicolaiGedda
(b. 1925). His versatility has always been considered remarkable inthat he has sung in and can speak seven languages. Born in Stockholm of a Russianfather and Swedish mother, he was trained at his native Royal Academy of Music.
Making his debut in 1951, he soon aroused international interest with his performanceof Chapelou in Adam's Le postillon de Longjumeau
. He first appeared atLa Scala in Milan in 1953, quickly followed by engagements in Paris, London and New York. He created and later recorded the r?â??le of Anatol in Samuel Barber'sVanessa
in 1958. He re-appeared in London in 1966, 1969 and 1976 but didnot make his solo debut until the age of sixty. Gedda sang at the Metropolitanin New York over 22 seasons in almost three hundred performances. His professionallongevity was remarkable in that he was still recording as recently as 2002.
His discography covers