Traditions, traditions

Posted by Helen Monday, December 31, 2012

What would New Year's Eve be like without Prince Orlofsky's party in Die Fledermaus? Allow me to quote from the great Victor Borge's My Favourite Intervals.

As the curtain goes up, we see an empty room in the Eisenstein house. This is a crucial moment in the operetta, because it's the last time anybody knows for sure what's going on. After that, the plot is one mass of confusion, with mistaken identities, people making love to their own wives, and other absurdities. In many productions on Die Fledermaus, performers wander in from other operas and sing music by other composers and by the time the chorus gets to the big number at the end of Act Two, the singers are so befuddled that they gurgle things like "hu hu hu hu" and "dui-du, dui-du, la la la, la la la". 
The setting of Die Fledermaus is "a watering place near a large town" but since nobody gets to see either the town or water, you might as well forget about that part of it. The main characters are Gabriel von Eisenstein, when he isn't pretending to be the Marquis Renard; Rosalinde, his wife, when she isn't pretending to be a Hungarian Countess; Adele, her chambermaid, when she isn't pretending to be Olga the Actress; Frank, the jailor, when he isn't pretending to be the Chevalier Chargrin; and Alfred, the singing teacher, when he isn't pretending to be Gabriel von Eisenstein. The only person who isn't pretending to be anybody else is Prince Orlofsky, and he's always played by a woman. 
Nor does it take place on New Year's Eve but somehow or other it has become associated with those particular festivities.

Here is Doris Soffel as Prince Orlofsky, singing Chacun รก son gout  in the 1984 Covent Garden production of the opera. Hermann Prey was Eisenstein (at this stage the Marquis) and Kiri Te Kanawa made a glorious Rosalinde.


Extra treat: here is Dame Kiri from the same production, singing a Hungarain czardas to prove that she really is a Hungarian countess.


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