Strauss, J Jnr (1825-1899) - Overture: Die Fledermaus
is literally a “little opera”, originally a play with overture, songs and
dances, but which has evolved into something indistinguishable from opera
except for being set to “light music”. We all know what that means,
but are hard-pressed to define it, except by example. The classic examples
are (would you believe?) the music of Johann Strauss Sohn. Die
Fledermaus (1847) is his best known, and unquestionably best loved,
operetta, the third of a series of stage works that he embarked upon at
the prompting of Offenbach, no less. Like so many works now firmly embedded
in our affections, it had a distinctly chilly reception, getting the chop
after a measly 16 performances in Vienna.
is firmly in the tradition established by Rossini and continued in our
century by the likes of George Gershwin, which is a “trailer” for the goodies
in store. It even starts with a traditional audience “shutter-upper” (so,
be warned!), succeeded by a veritable cascade of melodies so mouth-watering
that one can only wonder what it would have taken to please those miserable
Viennese, 150 years ago. It does, though, make considerable demands on
the performers, who must be alive to its many and extreme changes of pace:
not generally a feature of his waltzes and polkas, these are the key to
much of the hair-raising excitement of this incredibly entertaining music.
© Paul Serotsky
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