Sunday is New Year’s Eve and the Met premieres its new, possibly cursed production of Tosca but “Trove Thursday” celebrates with more traditional fare offering Carlos Kleiber conducting Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus with Lucia Popp, Bernd Weikl, Brigitte Fassbaender, Janet Perry, Wolfgang Brendel and Josef Hopferweiser.
Kleiber fils had perhaps the most acclaimed yet peculiar career of any conductor of the 20th century. His operatic repertoire consisted of perhaps a dozen operas which he led at a just a few select houses: Munich, Vienna, La Scala and Covent Garden. The Met snagged him for four of those operas (none of which were broadcast), virtually his only US appearances.
I was lucky to hear three of them: La Bohème (I was at his debut with Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti as Mimi and Rodolfo—a tremendously exciting evening); the premiere of the first Franco Zeffirelli La Traviata of which Kleiber conducted only two of his five scheduled performances; and Der Rosenkavalier with the three ladies who later showed up at the Wiener Staatsoper when it was videotaped.
Popp appears as Adele in Kleiber’s commercial recording of this Strauss operetta but here she’s promoted to Rosalinde. The CD, marvelous in many ways particularly Julia Varady’s Rosalinde, is unfortunately fatally blighted by the inexplicable casting of Ivan Rebroff as Orlofsky.
The German “entertainer” minces his way through the Prince’s music in a hideous falsetto which flops as badly as the Met’s occasional misguided stunt of casting a countertenor in the role. Happily Kleiber conforms to tradition in this performance using Fassbaender, one of the best-ever in the role. Like Popp, Weikl upgrades from Falke on the commercial recording to Eisenstein here.
Fassbaender, along with Perry, Hopferweiser, Brendel and Kusche, also appears in the video of Otto Schenk’s production conducted by Kleiber available on DVD.
Unfortunately it features the superannuated Eisenstein of Eberhard Wächter who is outsmarted by my fellow-Daytonian Pamela Coburn as Rosalinde, a role she sang fifteen times at the Met.
And Happy Birthday today to yet another Daytonian—my sister Julie.
Be warned the sound-quality of this recording isn’t the greatest and there’s oceans of dialogue but the bubbly spirit of the evening remains infectious.
Strauss: Die Fledermaus
Bavarian State Opera
31 December 1983
Rosalinde – Lucia Popp
Adele – Janet Perry
Prince Orlofsky – Brigitte Fassbaender
Eisenstein – Bernd Weikl
Alfred – Josef Hopferweiser
Falke – Wolfgang Brendel
Frank – Benno Kusche
Frosch – Frank Muxenede
Conductor – Carlos Kleiber
Fledermaus can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on its audio player and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.