Music and theater and opera and art and the whole damn thing.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Der Fledermausmann! A new year's eve travesty

Der Fledermausmann

An impression of certain confusing events on a recent Saturday afternoon in an area with poor radio reception.

(…static establishes that we are listening to a broadcast; then a familiar voice intones:)

“…As the curtain rises, we find ourselves in 19th-century Vienna, in the elegantly appointed bedroom of an aristocrat, Count Rudolf Wehn, whom we find just waking up in bed with his young ward, Octavian. From their amorous chit-chat, we learn that they are secretly Vienna’s caped crusader against crime, der Fledermausmann, and Fritz, des Knaben Wunderhorn, or horny boy wonder. A sudden commotion in the corridor announces the arrival of the Count’s country cousin, Rosalinda von Eisenstein, brushing aside the protests of Count Rudolf’s devoted but incompetent butler and cabbie, Schatzendorff. Rosalinda is broke and has come to town seeking Rudolf’s help to get herself a rich husband, ideally innocent young Alfried, only son of the nouveau riche former burlesque queen Baroness Fanny Waldner. Octavian quickly disguises himself as a maid and hops back into bed with the Count, hoping Rosalinda will detect nothing untoward. But Rosalinda is instantly smitten with the pretty girl (or so she thinks), and attempts to make a date with her, at a heurige, an inn in the Vienna Woods equipped (as we will find in Act III) with a chambre separée ….”

(…more static and occasional bursts of late-Romantic music, including, during the Act II Ball chez Prince Metternich, an interpolation from the same composer's operetta Die Diskoprinzessin of the only waltz song in 4/4 time: “Lvov, City of Lvove,” sung by a masked Galician tenor over the sound of a game of skat in the next alcove, and then, during the preposterous shenanigans in the Viennese country inn at the end of Act III, Jenny, a streetwalker, sings that bitter indictment of the bourgeoisie, “Das Garmisch-Partenkirchen-Lied,” the number that is said to have caused the censors of the Duke of Wölfenbüttel to ban the premier performance. At last, to our great relief, at the end of the third intermission, the familiar voice returns, to dissolve the Gordian knots of the plot:)

“Act IV opens in the major metropolitan jail of Vienna, where we meet Schlivovitcz, the comic jailer, a non-acting role. Enter, in great excitement, Alfried’s governess, Adele, who, you may remember, has disguised herself as a man to penetrate (as it were) the Viennese underworld. Since Adele is played by a baritone in drag, Schlivovitcz assumes she is the thug she is dressed as, and Adele has some (humorous) difficulty fending off his lewd advances. At last, however, she obtains an audience with Prince Metternich (played, you doubtless recall, by a mezzo-soprano en travesti), and reveals to him that the gang terrorizing metropolitan Vienna is led by a contralto with her arm in a sling. This can be no one but Rosalinda, who was wounded by Octavian in the Act II melee. Rosalinda is dragged off to a term in the dungeons of the Spielberg. Prince Metternich (twirling his mustachios) resolves to take an “interest” in Adele’s future career as an actress and offers her a ceremonial glass of champagne from his high leather boot. If she quaffs the whole thing in one gulp (and of course she does), she has accepted the arrangement. Meanwhile Octavian and Alfried have realized that they are meant for each other, and Count Rudolf, brushing aside a tear, departs in his flederfiaker, or bat-cab with Schatzendorff, as the curtain falls.

“The applause you’re hearing greets Maestro Spiegeltraum as he makes his way through the pit and asks the orchestra to rise. The House lights are going down, and we are ready for the concluding act of Der Fledermausmann….”

As ready as we’ll ever be, anyway.

(c) 2009, John Yohalem


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