JOHANN STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus
'VIENNA IN MUSIC" - A film by Peter Lodynski
WEILL: Rise And Fall Of The City Of Mahagonny
This Vienna production of Die Fledermaus is just about perfect, the real thing. This had to be a costly enterprise. The elaborate sets are by Jan Schlubach, with costumes designed by Barbara Bilabel. Audio was recorded November 2-12 1972, filming in Vienna Film Studios January 24-February 16, 1972. Lip-sync is very well done, and everyone seems to be having a great time. There's a lot of intricate dancing interludes that must have required a lot of rehearsals. The cast could not be bettered. Karl Böhm conducts, Gundula Janowitz is a vivacious Rosalinde, Renate Holm's Adele is stunning vocally as well as visually, and one of the great Tristans of the time, Wolfgang Windgassen, is Orlofsky—plus the luxury of Erich Kunz as Frank. Otto Schenk directed and is the jailer. For a truly authentic Fledermaus get this—or the equally fine live performance recorded in 1987 at the Bavarian Opera with Carlos Kleiber on the podium (REVIEW).
Peter Lodynski's Vienna In Music film supposedly provides Vienna's most famous music, mostly by the Strauss family, "against the opulent backdrop of the city's famous and historic sites." The film was made in and around Vienna in 1973 and includes a number of excerpts from concerts by the Vienna Philharmonic under Willi Boskovsky and a few performances by the Vienna Choir Boys and, presumably, the Vienna State Opera Ballet, although they are not identified. I find the visual aspects of this release useless—one does see some famous monuments and Viennese scenes, but also we have ducks swimming in a dirty Danube, flocks of birds in a park, very healthy Viennese citizens eating, peasants chasing each other, etc. Sound quality is definitely dated, limited in dynamic range, surely not 5.1, video quality also is not quite what it should be. Skip this one.
Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's Rise and Fall Of The City Of Mahagonny was overshadowed by The Three Penny Opera. The Metropolitan Opera presented Mahagonny first in 1979 later with several revivals, the most recent was 1995. There was a Live from the Met TV presentation as well as several radio broadcasts. The original Met cast starred Teresa Stratas, Richard Cassilly, Astrid Varnay and Cornell MacNeil, with James Levine on the podium. John Doyle directed this extraordinary new production by the Los Angeles Opera Company and it also was cast primarily with operatic stars—with the exception of Patti Lupone as Leocadia Begbick. Mahagonny deals with three lumberjacks headed by Jimmy all of whom worked hard for many years and expected to retire in the newly-created city of pleasure Mahagonny only to find that money cannot buy happiness. The stark sets by Mark Bailey are perfect for the concept, Ann Hould-Ward's bright costumes appropriately decadent. There's a lot more to Mahagonny than the familiar Alabama Song and Havanna Song. Video quality and sonics are excellent on this DVD which also includes a 22-minute bonus with conductor James Conlon discussing this presentation. A quality issue!
R.E.B. (January 2008)