Johann Strauss II - Orpheus-Quadrille, op. 236




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Published on Jul 11, 2011

Determined to break free from the constraints of one-act stage works, Jacques Offenbach (1819-80) had in 1858 acquired from the authorities a new theatre licence allowing him to utilize a larger cast than the limiting four characters previously permitted. His first full-length work, the two-act opéra bouffon Orphée aux Enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld), was written for his own theatre, the Bouffes Parisiens in Paris, where it received a rapturous public reception at its première on 21 October 1858.

Not until 16 October 1858 did a resident Viennese theatre company introduce local audiences to the delights of an Offenbach operetta, when the one-act Le Mariage aux Lanternes (1857) was mounted at the Carl-Theater -- as Hochzeit bei Laternenschein -- with German text by Karl Treumann and orchestrations by the theatre's house-conductor, Carl Binder (1816-60). The success of this initial venture prompted the Carl-Theater's director, Johann Nestroy, to stage more Offenbach one-acters during 1858 and 1859, all presented in 'the Viennese style' and with instrumentations by Binder. News about the triumph of Orphée aux Enfers inevitably reached Vienna, and on 17 March 1860 the curtain of the Carl-Theater rose on the first German-language production of Offenbach's parody of Greek mythology. The music was again arranged by Carl Binder, who also replaced Offenbach's original brief prelude with an overture which he crafted from the operetta's melodies, and which continues to enjoy worldwide popularity (though almost always attributed solely to Offenbach without any mention of Binder's name). Director Nestroy personally undertook the preparation of the German libretto from the Crémieux and Halévy French original, and moreover wrote the role of Jupiter for himself.

Sitting among the audience in the stalls of the Carl-Theater for the première of Orpheus in der Unterwelt was Johann Strauss. Enraptured by Offenbach's tuneful score he at once set to and -- "from recollections of Offenbach's operetta", as the press announcements proclaimed -- combined some of the stage work's most attractive themes into an orchestral quadrille which his publisher, Carl Haslinger, was able to issue on 8 April 1860. The first performance of Strauss's Orpheus-Quadrille -- initially announced for 15 April in the Volksgarten -- in fact took place on 18 April, when Johann himself conducted the new work at a concert in the tavern 'Zum grossen Zeisig' in the Viennese suburb of Neubau. Noting the quadrille "provoked thunders of applause", the Wiener Theaterzeitung (20 April) added: "It is effectively instrumented and presents the most popular melodies of the operetta with freshness and in the most original version possible". Perhaps not surprisingly, in view of the furore created at the operetta's Parisian première by the 'Galop infernal' (now better known as the cancan), it is music from this frenzied bacchanal which frames Strauss's Orpheus-Quadrille by providing material for its opening ('Pantalon') and closing ('Finale') sections. As a point of interest, Haslinger's first piano edition features an illustration of Johann Nestroy (as Jupiter, transmogrified into a fly) and Eurydice in their famous scene from Act 2. A later Haslinger edition published after Nestroy retired from the Carl-Theater on 1 November 1860, presents the identical scene -- but with Nestroy's 'fly' character re-engraved to portray a subsequent actor in the role. Music from 'The Fly Duet' is to be heard in the fifth ('Pastourelle') section of Strauss's quadrille.

  • Category

  • Song

  • Artist

    • Various Artists
  • Album

    • Johann Strauss II at the Opera
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • NaxosofAmerica (on behalf of Naxos); Public Domain Compositions, and 1 Music Rights Societies


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