Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the veteran Broadway book writers and lyricists, once wrote a revue sketch called "(You Can Always) Catch Our Act at the Met," in which vaudevillian opera singers sang of "putting the wriggle" into Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera.
Did anyone suspect Comden and Green, known for their brash, showbizzy lyrics, would themselves end up at the Met? The authors of lyrics to such anti-operatic songs as "Wrong Note Rag," "Just in Time," "Capt. Hook's Waltz" and "Conga!" entered the hallowed halls of the Met in New York City this year to write a new book and English dialogue for the Met's revival of Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, opening Dec. 24.
This is the third major Comden-Green production playing in New York City at the moment: Broadway is hosting revivals of On the Town (book and lyrics by the pair) at the Gershwin Theatre and Peter Pan (several tunes, written with Jule Styne) at the Marquis Theatre. In spring 1999, "Encores!" will present a concert reading of their 1961 musical, Do Re Mi.
Die Fledermaus, the 1874 Viennese comic operetta about a household -- husband, wife and maid -- attending Prince Orlofsky's masked ball, is directed by David Kneuss, with new choreography by Robert La Fosse.
Stage actor Max Wright (Lincoln Center Theater's Ivanov, Twelfth Night and more) performs the speaking role of the comic jailor Frosch. It's not uncommon for opera companies to contemporize and/or punctuate the libretto of comic operas with topical references. A 1950s Met version of Fledermaus had a topical book by Howard Dietz, himself a Broadway sketch writer and lyricist (Revenge With Music, The Band Wagon) who worked with Comden and Green on the film, "The Band Wagon."
According to a story in the Dec. 23 New York Times, Comden and Green (who are both 83 years old) have shifted the action from 1874 to a more millennial New Year's Eve, 1899. The manipulative Dr. Falke is now a Sigmund Freud character, husband Eisenstein is a newspaper editor, wife Rosalinde is an opera singer.
The younger Comden and Green started as Greenwich Village sketch writers and performers with friend Judy Holliday, billing themselves as "The Revuers," before writing book and/or lyrics for such musical comedies as On the Town (in which they also starred), Wonderful Town, Bells Are Ringing (starring Holliday), Two on the Aisle (with the Met spoof), Do Re Mi, On the 20th Century and screenplays for "Singin' in the Rain" and "The Band Wagon," among others.
A rendition of Comden and Green singing "Catch Our Act at the Met" is preserved on the two-disc CD, "A Party With Betty Comden and Adolph Green."
Met performances continue in repertory into 1999. Call (212) 362-6000 for information.
-- By Kenneth Jones