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Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
La Chauve-souris (The Bat) - arr. Douglas Gamley
Ballet in 2 acts after "Die Fledermaus"
Choreography: Roland Petit
Bella – Alessandra Ferri
Johann – Massimo Murru
Ulrich – Luigi Bonino
Corpo di Ballo del Teatro alla Scala
Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala/Kevin Rhodes
Recorded live at the Teatro degli Arcimboldi, Milan, December 2003
Sound DD5.1, DTS 5.1, LPCM Stereo.


Roland Petit, the distinguished French choreographer, created the Ballet La Chauve-souris in 1979 for the Ballet Nationale de Marseille. Its premiere was given in Monte Carlo. Luigi Bonino danced the part portraying a character based upon Alfred in the original Strauss operetta. Bonino played the same part of Ulrich in Tokyo and later repeated the role in this production by the La Scala company. The present version is directed for the stage by Bonino and Jean-Philippe Halnaut, under the Italian Title ‘Il pipistrello’. It includes further changes to the staging.

The story of the ballet is loosely based upon that of the original operetta. The Eisensteins become Johann and Bella, a slightly bored bourgeois married couple; Alfred, the lover of Rosalinda, becomes a manipulative joker and ladies’ man Ulrich. Johann rises from the marital bed costumed as a bat and flies through the sky for a night’s adventure ‘chez Maxim’. Bella, egged on by Ulrich follows in a new costume; Johann of course does not recognise his wife and tries to seduce her. Many complications follow and Johann ends up in prison. He is rescued by Bella and returns home where she cuts off his wings and gives him carpet slippers for a future of domestic bliss.

The expert choreography of Roland Petit produces a sparkling and colourful ballet. The dancing here is brilliant; not a moment of boredom! It would be difficult for anyone not to enjoy this supremely happy work.

The parts of Johann and of Bela, are danced by Massimo Murru and Alessandra Ferri, the stars of La Scala Ballet. Their performances are exemplary - great dancing and visual acting. Ludgi Bonino, of course, created the part of Ulrich and must be counted as the star performer. The roles of the members of the company are taxing but a very high standard is achieved. The costumes are especially noteworthy.

Die Fledermaus contains some of Johann Strauss’s most memorable tunes. These have been woven expertly by Douglas Gamley who has not hesitated to incorporate music from other works by the Waltz King. The end-result is ballet music of the first order. Kevin Rhodes conducts the La Scala Orchestra with verve.

As a lover of the original Die Fledermaus operetta, I must confess that I approached this DVD with some trepidation. However I was captivated by the dancing, from waltzes to Csárdas, and a rousing French can-can. The mix of Parisian esprit, Viennese charm and Milanese elegance is just irresistible.

Arthur Baker


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