J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 03/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This 'Fledermaus' from a 1980 production at the Vienna State Opera, originally shown on Austrian television, has much to recommend it but it also has some major drawbacks, about which more later.
The cast of singers is drawn from the VSO's regulars--Bernd Weikl as Eisenstein, Lucia Popp as Rosalinde, Brigitte Fassbaender as Prince Orlovsky, Walter Berry as Falke, Edita Gruberova as Adele--and is conducted with rhythmic point and echt-Viennese style by Theodor Guschlbauer conducting the VSO orchestra (known outside the opera house as the Vienna Philharmonic, and you can't do much better than that). It also has extraordinarily funny actors in Act III in Helmut Lohner as the jailer Frosch--his droll vocal delivery, rubber legs and startlingly athletic physical comedy are side-splitting--and baritone Erich Kunz, a VSO veteran still in very fine voice, as the Jail Warden Frank--his physical comedy, although not as spry, is equally hilarious. Credit for a lot of the comedic bits must go to director Otto Schenk.
And the singing is as good as one would expect; these are first class voices. Especially good are Fassbaender, Berry and Weikl. Lucia Popp has a beautiful voice, and certainly looks the part, but she had already developed a habit that later became more intrusive--a tendency to swell all long notes unmusically. Edita Gruberova, never my favorite coloratura, is pert but sometimes approximate in her two big numbers. The ballet at the end of Act II (set to Strauss's 'Thunder and Lightning Polka') is exhilarating. The sets by Günther Schneider-Siemsen and costumes by Milena Cananero are sumptuous.
Finally, a word must be said about the acting of the cast in general. The first two acts especially have such amateurish acting--I kept having cognitive dissonance in that I was hearing glorious singing coupled with junior high school acting--that it is almost embarrassing to watch. In fact, I had to play the first two acts again in the DVD player in my computer, but with the visuals minimized, before I realized what a fine aural performance this is. But sound alone is not why one buys a DVD, is it? I am willing to admit that perhaps I'm being a bit harsh here, but there are any number of other DVDs and VHSs of 'Fledermaus' out there that are equally good musically and dramatically superior. I particularly like the recent release from Glyndebourne, but must admit that the comedy in that production's Act III is nowhere near as funny as in this one from Vienna.
In German, with specially expanded and locally flavored German dialog. Subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish. LPCM Stereo. TT=169 minutes.
Don't Miss This Party!
Mr John Haueisen | WORTHINGTON, OHIO United States | 04/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why is this a great Fledermaus? Here's why:
The Vienna State Opera does a quality job including:
Edita Gruberova's Adele--her singing and acting are incomparable here--she's totally "on" and constantly involved in the action--the consummate chambermaid-turned-belle of the ball.
Walter Berry, is a cute, lovable, frolicking Dr. Falke.
Helmut Lohner is the epitome of the jailer--a laid-back civil servant who is sincerely shocked that anyone would expect him to work. He adds some impressive footwork that will make him live on in your memory as the perfect Frosch.
Yes, of course the music was excellent, led by Theodor Guschlbauer, but I've saved the best for last:
A young Bernd Weikl dazzles with his singing, acting, and athleticism. During the waltzes, when he isn't carrying two ladies on his shoulders, he's doing a sort of walrus-trot that adds to the "devil-may-care" hilarious atmosphere of this wonderful party. This is a delightful Viennese party you'll watch again and again. Enjoy it with friends!"
A joyful year-round treat
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 03/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Die Fledermaus, Johann Strauss's most famous operetta, has become standard New Year's fare. And indeed, this performance was taped on New Year's Eve in Vienna, 1980. And what fun it is! Die Fledermaus not only has many famous tunes, it has a witty libretto that perfectly satirizes the gaudy, faithless, tacky world of the Vienna bourgeousie.
The cast looks like they're having a ball, and this is important. Often I find that operetta doesn't translate well onto the larger opera stages because the festivity and fun looks forced. Not here. Watch Dr. Falke (Walter Berry) and Eisenstein (Bernd Weikl) prance around in Act 1, or Rosaline (Lucia Popp) tap her toes in secret during "So muss allein ich bleiben." Watch Orlofsky's party degenerate into a drunken Bacchanale, with flying champagne glasses and swooning ladies. It looks like Times Square in 19th century Vienna. If Frank's (Erich Kunz) antics in Act 3 seem hammy, well, it's still fun seeing Kunz obviously having fun.
The cast is uniformly excellent. It's an opportunity to see the legendary Lucia Popp in all her charm. Everyone who ever saw her said Popp was "special" and this video shows why. It's hard to make Rosalinde lovable, as after all she's a stuffy, hypocritical society lady. But Popp succeeds. Sure, the last note in Csardas is more of a scream than a note, but by then both the "partygoers" and the Viennese audience are applauding. Walter Berry and Bernd Weikl are delightful as Falke and Eisenstein, the two old leches. Even the dullest character, Orlofsky (Brigitte Fassbaender, looking delightfully "butch") is bubbly and bright. Most of all, this is an ENSEMBLE performance, where everyone seems to sing TOGETHER, and with tremendous energy and joy. Act 3 has Erich Kunz drunkenly hamming it up as Frank. Maybe he goes overboard, but who cares? The ONLY disappointment in the excellent cast is Edita Gruberova as Adele. She sings wonderfully, and it's hard to imagine better trills during "Mein Herr Marquis," but to me her voice doesnt have enough sparkle and shine for Adele. She overcompensates with extraneous giggling noises.
So overall, if you're having a bad case of the blues, I think this Die Fledermaus is a definite remedy."
A Great New Year's Farce, with a Feast for the Ears and Eyes
Dr. F. Mark Carter | 01/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No one puts a foot wrong here! This performance is delicious from start to finish. The sets are opulent. The orchestral playing every bit what one would expect from the Vienna. The standard of acting is astonishing. This is a New year's farce. To bring off a farce requires acting of the highest order. This is the case here, and this performance is very funny. The singing is magnificent. I hate to single one performer out, but Lucia Popp presents such a delectable sound, that it is just captivating. It was such a tragedy she died so young. Even though the performance is 1980, and the recording two channel PCM stereo, it is the best sound I have yet heard on an Opera DVD. The balance is pretty well perfect. The voices have a lot of space around them. The ambiance of the opera house is well captured. The bass is deep and well detailed. The reason I think, is that I there are no microphones in evidence in the orchestra pit. I suspect that this performance was recorded with a sensibly distant microphone placement, resulting in the excellent balance and capturing the ambiance of the house. This DVD is highly recommended. It is pure fun and delight from start to finish."
The Best "Bat" Yet!
Elizabeth C. Clark | 01/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This delightful Die Fledermaus is by far the most outstanding production currently available. The extraordinary cast never disappoints; their voices are superb, and their joy of performance is evident throughout the opera. Equally pleasing is the excellent technical quality of the DVD."