Saturday, 6 June 2009

Strauss' Waltz of Marriage: Sin, Satire and Spin...

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Our performances of Die Fledermaus at Cadogan Hall begin in 10 days. First performance at 7pm on Tuesday 16th June & the second on Friday 19th June. Soloist rehearsals begin tomorrow and the Sitzprobe with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Chorus is on Sunday 14th...we are literally in the home straight.

Can't wait to see it all come together. Must admit hearing Leslie Howard playing Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy will be fantastic. His rehearsal with Madeleine went extremely will be quite a concert.

More about Leslies involvement here

Below is the article which our conductor, Madeleine Lovell has written for the programme. For those of you who don't know this operetta this is a very helpful and enjoyable form of introduction.

Strauss' Waltz of Marriage: Sin, Satire and Spin

After 135 glorious years as a mainstay of the operatic repertoire, it is all too easy to take Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus a little for granted. The warm familiarity of the score can perhaps endanger our appreciation of Haffner’s and Génee’s well-aimed satire – on marriage, fidelity, mid-life crisis, the aspiring actress, the self aggrandizing tenor, and the sore loser – when, in truth, Strauss’ music provides the perfect foil. It is hard to imagine a musical setting more focused on awkwardness and discomfort.

While calling upon all the stock-intrades of comedy – mistaken identity, the battle of the sexes, class-warfare, as well as the requisite happy ending – Strauss never loses sight of the emotional core of the action. Consider, for example, the giddy succession of new themes in the Finale of Act 1 (the trio for Alfred, Rosalinda and Frank), spiralling out of control just as management of the situation spins away from Rosalinda. The middle portion of this Finale (‘Dear Sir, what can you think of me?’ … ‘It’s getting late, we’re tête-à-tête’) reveals what Rosalinda is trying her best to conceal, with a vocal line whose potential urbanity is undermined by sudden leaps, awkward breaks and deliberately fussy grace notes. She uses the sophistication of the waltz to paper over her anxiety.

The underlying menace of Orlofsky is suggested in a similar way. The vocal register of Chacun à son gout, largely based around the lower-middle part of the voice, suddenly erupts into the highest part of a mezzo’s range. Strauss’ music uncovers the erratic nature of this Prince, and, through remarkable use of the high part of the voice (whose timbre will, inevitably, be very penetrating) in this aria and throughout Act 2, shows us a domineering character.

Power play is also at the heart of Rosalinda’s Act 2 show-stopper Csárdás. Supposedly the moment at which Eisenstein’s wife is least sincere, Strauss produces music of unparalleled beauty and emotional strength. Her impersonation of a Hungarian Countess ceases to be an exercise in fabulous fakery (unlike, for instance, Adele’s Audition Aria) and becomes instead a lament for the marriage that she has just seen falling apart. This mesmeric music, with its virtuoso display of the singer’s legato line and dazzling coloratura, makes us appreciate the depths of Rosalinda’s character. This in turn sheds light on why Eisenstein in the end cannot live without her.

Eisenstein’s short temper, and the associated issue of his violent jealousy, are brilliantly evoked in trios at either end of the opera. The Act 1 Trio with Rosalinda and Blind begins noisily as Eisenstein storms in, biting out his criticism of his incompetent lawyer, and barely letting anyone else get a word in. Despite Rosalinda’s best efforts to calm him with two passages of soothing Andante, Eisenstein’s bad mood shows no sign of abating. Blind’s ill-conceived and long-winded description of how he will sort things out merely tips him over the edge. Strauss demonstrates an equally masterful handling of pace in the Act 3 Trio for Eisenstein, Rosalinda and Alfred. Time and again Eisenstein’s short fuse looks set to sabotage his ambush of his ‘unfaithful wife’ as he cannot stop his own horrified outbursts as more details of the story are revealed. The sheer rhythmic force of the final section, as well as the contrast between a heavily accented three-note ascent high in the voice (‘Ei-sen-stein’) followed by a legato four-note descent low in the voice (‘though I was cheated’) drives this Trio to its breathless conclusion. Strauss, of course, last used this music at the beginning of the Overture, cleverly rounding off the opera by identifying its main musical theme with the belligerent
main character.

No account of Strauss’ handling of pace in Die Fledermaus would be complete, however, without mention of the descent into paralytic drunkeness that is the multi-sectional Act 2 Finale. What begins with a champagne toast, quickly dissolves into hiccups and a joyous collective decision to invade one another’s most personal space. The lurching theme of the final section shows us the revellers in the last stages of intoxication. Bacchus would have approved.

© Madeleine Lovell
Queens’ College Cambridge

Please don't forget our Fledermaus launch concert at Vernon Ellis' House 49 Queen's Gate Terrace. Monday 8th June. 7 - 7.30pm.

As usual we have pulled out all the stops with appearances by Sarah Redgwick, Rosalinda singing the Czardas; Ana James, Adele will sing the Audition Aria; Simon Thorpe, Falke will sing the famous Bruederlein and Lise Christensen, Orlofsky will sing Orlofsky's famous aria.

Plus 30 members of the Philharmonia Chorus who will sing the final champagne chorus. A wonderful way to spend a summers evening. Madeleine Lovell will conduct and give a short talk about the piece, with Margaret Marinkovic on the piano.

Fine wines and canapes will be served. Seats are still available please book here

Please email us at if you would like any further information.

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