In the previous episode dedicated to Johann Strauss's wife, Anna says to her husband "We want you to become part of us (our family) again." However, at the heights of his career, he is taken with more and more women. A beautiful blonde appears at the Sterl and has a crush on him... Emilie Trampusch (Barbara Ferris), whom historically Johann Strauss called "Queen of Waltz." She presents herself as "Mrs Strauss" in one of the most unpredictable situations...
Anna (Anne Stallybrass) becomes nothing more than a housewife taking care of her six children. Johann Strauss (Eric Woofe) comes back home late at nights, he leaves his dirty boots on the table, he behaves more like a guest. He becomes rather a nuisance than an aid to his family. He treats them more instructional and, as one of his sons says, he would "parade his family in public in order to prove they still exist." Family table and its role change. Clearly, his children are musically talented, yet, he plans a different future for them. The almost grown up Schani (Stuart Wilson) works in a bank but he does his job reluctantly rather than out of some youthful enthusiasm. And music?
There is no room for music in his life unless in secret. He takes private music lessons at the best teacher's in Vienna named Drechsler (played by wonderful Carleton Hobbs). But he will go his way reaching far more than his father... The boy soon has "no father" and Anna is his mother. Strong mother, indeed. Anna utters another terrific line here: "When there is no work, one must create work."
After Johann Strauss leaves his family and goes to his Emilie, David Reid's dramatization of the episode accurately marks this division of two realities. Mind you that Anna's flat is contrasted to Emilie's flat along with visual representation of them both. While Anna's flat dominates in rather gloomy but realistic depiction of life, Emilie's flat is dominated by pink standing for "illusion". That clear contrast is sharpened by pairing of scenes and juxtaposing from close-up to close-up. An interesting character who finds favor in Johann's eyes is Hirsch, always a diplomat, an adviser with a bit of distrust towards Emilie.
Apart from quite an extraordinary depiction of Johann Strauss's double life, the episode is famous for great scenes with Josef Lanner (Derek Jacobi). Despite the argument they have had and rivalry that took over their friendship, Strauss and Lanner meet in the chapel. Their talk seems friendly; yet, is there any reconciliation when "too much has happened; too much Lanner cares about?" Soon, it occurs this was their last meeting... In STRAUSS DYNASTY by Marvin J. Chomsky, Lanner's death and Strauss's coming too late are, perhaps, more dramatic and spectacular aspects; but the subtlety herein depicted is worth considering.
Among the supporting cast of the episode, a mention needs to be made of Carleton Hobbs as old Drechsler. His manners supplied with some awe and dignity very well fit to the role of "the best teacher in Vienna." John Gielgud supplies the character with more humour, perhaps, being in taken with the taste of apricot jam; yet, Hobbs's Drechsler is unique. Pity there are actually two scenes with him only.
The most memorable and dramatic scene of the episode, though, appears to me the moment when Schani, having encountered Emilie - "Mrs Strauss' in the bank goes to her flat and sees a little kid, Emilie's kid whose father is his father. Much is conveyed through that scene.
While the music of Johann Strauss sound at the Sterl, attention will be drawn to old place at Dommayer's. Argument, rivalry, scandal...two Johann Strausses and through all this, a new star to rise.
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