In what seems to be an endless tour at Wiener Staatsoper of masterworks from great choreographers of the 1970’s, the latest premiere brings us Die Fledermaus, a.k.a. La Chauve-souris from maestro Roland Petit.
La Chauve-souris is a particularly amusing example of how cultural cross-pollination can go full circle.
Mr. Petit’s inspiration for La Chauve-souris was an operetta by Johann Straus (Jr.), the famous waltz king. Die Fledermaus is part of Austrian folklore, televised every year at New Year’s on the national television station. Mr. Petit transposed Die Fledermaus’s scenes at the ball to Paris’s own Maxim’s. This production is the first visit of the ballet version of Die Fledermaus to Vienna.
At the heart, the story remains the same. A man with a beautiful wife has grown too accustomed to her, as men do, even bored. Johann’s wife Bella solicits her husband’s attention to no avail. He prefers even the newspaper to her company. In evening however Johann has other plans. He likes to slip out to Maxim’s to dance, flirt and even seduce.
While Johann is ignoring her, Bella – as attractive women, married or not, always do – has an admirer. In this case, the admirer is their children’s tutor Ulrich.
When Johann has disappeared to Maxim’s, Bella calls Ulrich to the house. Ulrich sees his chance and goes in for the kill, hoping to seduce Bella the same evening. But for the moment, Bella cannot bring herself to betray her husband. Ulrich has a backup plan – to disguise Bella and take her out to Maxim’s where she can see Johann’s womanizing for herself.
Ulrich’s hidden agenda is that when Bella has seen Johann’s infidelity, she will be easy prey for Ulrich himself.