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Nothing serious from beginning to end.
A most enjoyable show. It sometimes takes a bit to get "into" an operetta but this was all in the open from beginning to end. It is one of those operettas that one can watch time and time again without it palling.
It was, of course, all about flirtation and deception, as a farce usually is.
The show was an instant hit at its first performance in , getting rapturous applause. And I fully understand why. Movie versions of books and plays often stray a fair bit from the original and this one did too. But both meanders were successful and amusing so that is what matters. The cast I was pleased to see two familiar faces in the show: Harald Serafin and Tatjana Iwanow. I would not have recognized Serafin though. But in this show he was around Quite a shock to see how much difference age can make.
I was also interested to see that he was quite tall compared to the other actors in the show. Ancestrally, he is half North German and half Italian so it was a bit amusing to see him cast as an Englishman in this show. I first saw Tatjana Iwanow in Dollarprinzessin, recorded in In both shows she played most convincingly a very cynical and scheming older woman.
She could bark orders well too, as when she shouted Setzen! She played such an evil role that one could miss that she was actually quite good-looking however: A fine figure of a woman with brilliant blue eyes. A Berliner with grey eyes and fair skin, she looked rather English to me. She was rather short and also slightly built -- "only a slip of a girl", as the Irish say. When Serafin grabbed her to dance with her at one stage, he looked like a monster beside her. She was thrown around rather like a rag doll on a couple of occasions, actually.
She was born in , had considerable success in the theatre and in films but became depressed and at age 38 jumped off the Golden Gate bridge to her death. She was a dear little thing with real talent as a singer so I am sad that life turned out so badly and ended so soon for her. I am putting up below a picture of her with "Henri", her Naval cadet boyfriend, played by Uwe Friedrichsen, a Saxon, who is now in his 80s and well known as a character actor on German TV.
Something he did well was blue eyes opened very wide in a portrayal of surprise on various occasions. All the color pictures of him online are in elderly roles so this is the first pic put online of him as a young man.
I hate that custom. And I must mention the two ladies who were testing out their husbands. She was elsewhere known for singing in Bach cantatas.
I thought she looked either Italian or Southern French so I was not surprised to read the following puff about her: Her repertoire is mostly Italian. At least one publicist saw her as the leading attraction in this show so the puff was perhaps not out of bounds.
She certainly got some good arias to sing and sang them well. The Hungarian Maria Tiboldi was 31 at the time of the show but looked very young -- thanks, no doubt, to some combination of good skin and stage makeup. She had a very pleasant rather low-pitched speaking voice.
A soprano with a low-pitched speaking voice seems rather mad but it is not uncommon in my experience. Very droll and world-weary beneath the formality. He actually had a good racket going. And it was one of the good laughs when Friedrichsen claimed to be aflame with passion for "Hortense".
The waiter was nearby at that point and, in an entirely understandable way, he rolled his eyes on hearing that! He was also amusing earlier on in that scene when "Hortense" urged Geduld patience on her admirer. I still laugh when I think of it. No wonder Erhardt was a noted comic. And his wild dancing was a caricature of dancing. He was trying to impress the low-class "Feodora" with his youthfulness.
He is just one of those naturally funny men like John Cleese or Barry Humphries. He comes across as absurd from the outset. He was a marvellous asset to the show. Some of the jokes involving him are in that rare category of jokes that you laugh at every time even if you have heard them many times before. But I was surprised at the scene where "Hortense" was talking with her friend, the chambermaid at the "Ritz". The chambermaid was clearly half Negro. That really stood out beside the very fair Berliner.
Was political correctness already around in ? Viennese operettas are usually as all-white as Russian ballet. So it was actually that naughty "stereotyping"! Operetta normally has a clear leading lady and leading man but that was not at all clear in this case.
I would have to nominate "Hortense", even though she is clearly from the "second string" story. In Graefin Mariza at Moerbisch, I thought that Marco Kathol was the outstanding male figure too, despite being second string. Chloroform is a surgical anaesthetic. As is common in operetta, there are fleeting jokes, jokes that fly by you in a couple of seconds which you may or may not "get". One such was when "Georges" the journalist gets his invitation.
The other two men make fools of themselves when they get their invitations but "Georges" does not. And on detecting perfume rightly assumes that he will be busy later that day. He has obviously had assignations with ladies at the Ritz before. The maid reads him well, however. Another fleeting event was when the maid introduces the low-class "Feodora". A Parisian maid may not be high up but is still a respectable somebody -- certainly above the hoi polloi in social status.
Another fast-moving joke lasting only a few seconds was towards the end of the show when the plebeian "Feodora" was suggested by the clueless "Caesare-Aristide" as the new chambermaid, that was generally accepted but Serafin quickly slipped her some "silence-money", which she promptly and wisely tucked into her bra.
Another thing that you had to be attentive to get was when the naval cadet was kissing the hand of the English lady. That was as the subtitles rendered it. He said something like "auer", which is very much like what some English-speakers would say I was also amused when the cadet did not stay restrained for long when he got his lady into the Chambre separee.
After drinking some champagne with her, he demanded that she get it all off -- domino, dress and all. Navy directness, I guess. A small bonus in the show which I enjoyed was in the first dancing scene.
It included a tall thin male dancer with a big conk in black garb and a top hat who reminded me powerfully of John Cleese doing "silly walks". Not sure it was intentional but it was amusing. He actually did well to leap about so much. At one stage he took his hat off and we could see a bald spot in his hair. So he was no spring chicken. I was surprised that the "Englishman" Serafin was portrayed as making a social class mistake.
Vorstellungen mit Edita Gruberova | Spielplanarchiv der Wiener Staatsoper
Social class is pretty influential in Germany but to this day it is even more so in England. Heuberger must not have known the English well. There were actually several points in the show where the English were mocked. It at least reduced the tension that she arrived late. Her gaffes were epic: Mistaking In flagrante as a place in Italy and not at all knowing what a Tintoretto was.
But she was indulged. Like most Australians, I have no time for social class myself but it is a central concept in sociology, which I taught for a number of years. So maybe I know something about it anyway.
And another social class oddity was that "Hortense" had a rather familiar relationship with the family who employed her. The maid had an out-of-class role in Fledermaus too, particularly in the recent Moerbisch version. And when the servant "borrowed" from her mistress a garment to wear to the ball, that was, of course, another re-run of Fledermaus.
Actors Who Have Committed Suicide - IMDb
And the show ends up in classical operetta style with lots of laughs. But all three couples were happily reunited. How it should be but not always so in real life.