Sunday, January 01, 2012

Sunday Classics: Why I'm crazy about "Die Fledermaus"


At Prince Orlofsky's (Act II), at the Bavarian State Opera

DETECTIVE GREGGS: Boring, ain't we?
CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT BUBS: How y'all do what you do every day and not want to get high? That's what I be asking.
-- from "The Pager," Season 1, Episode 5 of The Wire

by Ken

Maybe I should explain that Bubs's perception of acute futility has been prompted by watching Detectives Greggs (Sonja Sohn) and McNulty (Dominic West) on a stakeout while waiting for his ride back downtown. But if this doesn't resonate wildly for you, I'm thinking you must be one of those lucky people whose life is warpped up in activities and pastimes that provide more satisfaction and stimulation than is the case for most of the people I know.

I promised Friday night ("Beginning a Fledermaus New Year's -- 'Happy is he who forgets what can't be changed anyway'") to try to explain today why I am crazy about Die Fledermaus. (Last night we paused for a Fledermaus-themed New Year's celebration.) Okay, here goes.

There is, for all of us leading such lives, that irresistible urge to get the fuck away from it all, to get outside, beyond, or some such damn place. And this, for me, is the overpowering appeal of Johann Strauss's masterpiece, Die Fledermaus. And amazingly this appeal cuts across class lines, from the bored upper class represented by Gabriel von Eisenstein and his wife Rosalinde down to the servant class represented by their maid Adele. And thanks to the genius of Strauss's librettists Carl Haffner and Richard Genée (and of course the sources they drew on), for one and all that "someplace" to get away to turns out to be the very same place: the ball thrown by the Russian prince Orlofsky, who has raised boredom to something like an art.

It gets even better, because this need for getaway not only drives all the characters to made-up stories but produces stories within stories and, ultimately, unknown to all of them, a still larger story lurking behind the whole craziness.

For tonight, my only ambition is to get our three central characters from the Eisenstein abode (Act I) to Prince Orlofsky's gathering (Act II). (No, we're not even going to touch Act III.)


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