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Thursday, December 29, 2011
Die Fledermaus & Viennese Laughter
The story is told of the of the two soldiers one Austrian, one German, each reporting on the progress of a battle.
" Herr General,the situation is serious, but not hopeless.", said the German.
But the Austrian replies, smiling and relieved " Herr General. The situation is impossible, but not serious."
This laughter in tears, the self irony and deprecation; the odd smiling melancholy, all of this is part of the sensibility we think of as Austrian and more specifically Viennese. It is this exquisitely balanced and gentle sophistication that marks, perhaps the greatest of all operettas, Die Fledermaus or The Bat.
A classic from the night of it's premiere in 1874 it blurs the line between what is opera and what is operetta. So persuasive is its' music that it commands attention before a single note is sung in the unforgettable overture. The plot sounds impossible for a comedy. Someone is threatened with jail and decides to attend a ball. In between there is flirtation and the hint of seduction and betrayal from both a husband and a wife. Framing these events is another plot of revenge for a social humiliation: after a party attended by two drunken friends one abandons the other to stagger home still in costume (as a bat) the next day in broad daylight. The plot grows more complicated with each scene. At the ball there is no confession and revelation but a playing at masquerades, in which a husband and wife flirt unaware that the stranger that attracts them is in fact a spouse. In between is wrongful imprisonment; a drunken jailor this hilarious role playing goes hand in hand with social posing, misdirected romance, class lines hopelessly confused. All to an unstoppable flow of melody. At the end all is understood, but not everyone is pardoned. A worldly wise comedy, or adults after a night of champagne.
Please make time in your holiday celebration , for a cool and bubbling comedy.Tune in this Saturday at noon for Johann Strauss II, Die Fledermaus. This New Year's Eve on KPAC and KTXI and Prost!