DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

La Chauve-souris – Ballet after Johann Strauss: Die Fledermaus (2004)

A frisky French Fledermaus without songs or dialog

Published on July 17, 2005

La Chauve-souris – Ballet after Johann Strauss: Die Fledermaus (2004)
La Chauve-souris – Ballet after Johann Strauss: Die Fledermaus (2004)

Choreographer: Roland Petit
Dancers: Alessandra Ferri, Massimo Murru, Luigi Bonino
Ballet Corps and Theater Orchestra of La Scala/Kevin Rhodes
Studio: TDK (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen
Audio: DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, PCM stereo
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: ****

Taped live in Milan for European TV in December 2003, this is a
delightful two-act ballet based on Die Fledermaus, with not a word of
German and in fact no singing. Eighty-year-old Petit is far from a
petite figure in the ballet world.  He revolutionized ballet after
the Second World War, bringing in virtuoso young dancers, working with
top writers such as Cocteau and Genet and creating dances that partook
of dozens of influences and new ideas but with a thoroughly French sex
appeal.  This French Fledermaus is an example of Petit’s broad
dance world as it mixes classical dance with the waltz, pantomime,
Hungarian folk dance and even a French cancan.  The note booklet
writer calls it a mix “of Parisian esprit, Viennese charm and Milanese
elegance.”

I was unsure how the story of Die Fledermaus would be communicating in
ballet and mime only; without the note booklet it might have been
difficult.  The bourgeois married couple and the couple’s friend
Ulrich are the main characters. The husband is bored and takes off for
Maxim’s in the wee hours. (Petit’s decision to have him costumed as a
bat and literally flying off is very confusing – making the viewer
think of Batman or Dracula.) The wife calls Ulrich to take her to
Maxim’s too, where she struts her stuff as a gorgeous dancer in
disguise and her husband tries to woo her – not realizing it is in fact
his wife. Their pas de deux is extremely sensual, and Ferri’s brief
gamin-style costume and appearance will remind many viewers of Petit’s
earlier star dancer (and wife) Zizi Jeanmaire.  Bonino as Ulrich
shines in all the humorous choreography, including some Chaplinesque
turns.  The high resolution widescreen images often display the
entire stage rather than the excess of closeups found with some ballet
videos. The various Strauss waltzes and polkas are played with great
elan by the La Scala musicians and the DTS surround sonics are very
close to DVD-A or SACD surround in quality.

- John Sunier




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