There’s lots to like in the 2003 Glyndebourne recording of Die Fledermaus. Let’s start with Stephen Lawless’ production. It’s attractively designed, quite slick and has a few good new gags without going overboard. The sets are designed with striking diagonals and staircases and gantries. Rotation is used both as a device to change the setting and as an element in the scene composition. The overall effect is that the scene changes from drawing room to a sort of “gilded cage” for Orlofsky’s party – which opens out to create space for the action – to a prison with minimum disruption to us or the action. Spots are used to create stagey effects and at one point Jurowski in the pit ostentatiously upstages the actors on stage. Lawless never lets us forget this is a “show”.
The changes to the dialogue are quite good. There’s nolengthy monologue for Frosch in Act 3. Indeed frosch is almost weitten out of the piece though he gets to conduct the Radetzky March during the curtain calls. What we do get is a running gag about Tom Allen (Eisenstein) not being a tenor despite Rosalinde believing him to be one. This comes to a head in Act 2 where Falke is listing off Eisenstein’s sins to Rosalinde’s “I forgive him, I’m a faithfl wife” refrain until he gets to “And he’s not really a tenor” at which point she loses it. OK, maybe not the all time funniest gag in opera history but it helps things along. The other change is right at the end. Orlofsky, having assumed the protection of Adèle, rips off his wig and moustache to reveal that “he” is a girl. Chacun à son goût.
The singing and acting are all first class. The dancing, by the non specialists, gets 10/10 for trying. Tom Allen is at his considerable comic best throughout. There’s one scene where he and Artur Korn (Frank) are dancing with a line of chorus girls His expression and gesture as he declines to follow them in doing the splits is priceless. Håkan Hagegård is a very effective and forceful Dr. Falke. He is the puppet master in this production and he never lets us forget. Pår Lindskog is quite full voiced for Alfred as establishes a real persona for the part.
The ladies are also excellent. The stand out is Lyubov Petrova as Adèle. She manages the vocal fireworks remarkably well with maybe just a hint of strain at the very top end and she’s totally convincing in the acting department. She’s rather decorative too which helps Pamela Armstrong is a forceful Rosalinde though definitely not in the “stately as a battleship” mode the role is sometimes played in. She’s lively, sings beautifully and is brilliant in the Csárdás. Malena Ernman is a curious Orlofsky. She uses a variety of slightly odd vocal techniques to evoke the character’s colossal ennui but she sings very well when she’s let loose in a more conventional vein. Her acting is excellent too. Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO move everything along with the appropriate swing and the whole thing has an air of people enjoying themselves.
The video direction by Franceska Kemp is very good 90% of the time but there’s a section in Act 2 where she pretty much loses me. The set is rotating. There is dancing going on. The camera angles keep changing and I have no idea what an “audience view” might be. For sure, we are being shown anything and everything but the dancers. It’s an odd passage. Technically this Blu-ray package is really good. The picture is 1080i !6:9 and the sound is gorgeous PCM 5.0 (PCM 2.0 as an option). One would need better equipment than mine to fault it. Subtitle options are English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch. There are plenty of extras including director and cast interviews and a documentary on the building of the new opera house at Glyndebourne. The documentation includes a short, useful essay by the director.
Between this production and the earlier Munich effort I think I’ve met my goal of establishing a baseline for appreciating next year’s new COC production with the ever thoughtful Christopher Alden directing. If my ears did not deceive me there’s a moment in the Act 1 dialogue where someone interjects “O Schade”. I’m curious to see what they do with that!