Dates and Venue February 28, March 5 & 7 at 7.30pm & March 8 at 2pm | Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Alfred David Pomeroy AdeleSuzanne Rigden RosalindeJoyce El-Khoury von Eisenstein Roger Honeywell Dr. Blind Martin Sadd Dr. Falke Hugh Russell Frank Andrew Greenwood Ida Laurelle Jade Froese Prince Orlovsky Julie Boulianne Frosch Christopher Gaze Ivan Zachary Read
Conductor Jonathan Darlington Director Nancy Hermiston Scenic Designer Keith Brumley Lighting Designer Gerald King Choreographer Eva Tavares Chorus Master Kinza Tyrell Stage Manager Theresa Tsang
Sung in German with dialogue in English and English SURTITLES™
Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson
Frothy and bubbling like the champagne that drives the plot, Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus dances along under Jonathan Darlington’s lively baton. The Overture was full of excitement, so alert to the energy and good humour produced by the many changes in tempo and the delicious tunes and as elegant as a Viennese Konditorei.
Once the curtain was up on a lush set from Keith Brumley, the ringing tones of David Pomeroy’s rich tenor interrupted by a bright-voiced Suzanne Rigden as the chippy chamber-maid Adele upheld the light-heartedness. Pomeroy was unrelenting as the stage tenor Alfred, would-be lover of the (married) Rosalinde and Rigden was delightful, hitting her high notes with ease and delivering the pyrotechnics with a degree of pertness.
Joyce El-Khoury added dreamy grace to a lyrical Rosalinde von Eisenstein and was particularly spirited in the trio “So muss allein ich bleiben” with Adele and Eisenstein. As for Roger Honeywell (Eisenstein) got up in a blond wig and looking uncommonly like Andre Rieu, he was petulant, louche and honey-voiced.
Set amongst the wealthy bourgeoisie in late 19th century Vienna, Die Fledermaus is a parody of the revenge opera, in which the injuries are to reputation and the weapons are practical jokes. The protagonists are Dr. Falke (Hugh Russell), the revenger and Gabriel von Eisenstein, the victim. Eisenstein has been sentenced to a week in prison for fraud and Falke sees his chance. He inveigles Rosalinde and Adele into attending Count Orlovsky’s masked ball in disguise and easily persuades Eisenstein to pretend to be a French marquis and enjoy a final night of champagne and dancing girls before going to prison. Thrown into the mix are the stereotypical operatic tenor Alfred, wooer of Rosalinde, who is mistaken for Eisenstein and ends up in prison, Frosch the drunken Jailer, a non-singing part taken by the illimitable Christopher Gaze, and Frank the prison governo (Andrew Greenwood)r who is also a guest at the ball impersonating a theatrical producer. Dr. Blind the lawyer, the traditional stuttering incompetent, was cleverly portrayed by Martin Sadd, an engaging tenor, who did not overplay either the stutter or his physical comedy.
In Act II, we discover that the revenge plot has been recast as a Comedy of Manners for the amusement of the Count. Julie Boulianne plays the ultra-blasé Orlovsky as a tough little sprig of the nobility, dark-voiced and solemn even in the hiccupping “Chacun a son gout” toast to champagne. All play out their new roles to the hilt, to the delight of Falke and Orlovsky, especially when Eisenstein, true to form, tries to seduce his masked wife. Boulianne’s laughter as all is revealed was genuine and infectious. Where Strauss inserts some of his best toe-tapping music, choreographer Eva Tavares has arranged an effective whirlwind of dances, danced by the chorus members. I loved it.
Act III exchanges lush trappings for spare prison bars. In counterpoint to Pomeroy's Alfred, still splendidly singing famous arias in cell 12, Christopher Gaze (Frosch) pulls out all the stops in parody of the actor of the “grand manner,” including a nice take-off of himself. Ultimately the plot wraps up with some revelations, some forgiveness and a decision to blame everything on that lovely bubbly stuff, champagne.
While not a grand cru, not really even a premier cru production, this Fledermaus is nevertheless a very drinkable, good house blend. Falke (Hugh Russell), despite a beautiful, well-finessed baritone, lacks the presence believably to orchestrate and control the mayhem. The declamatory style used in the spoken text seems to be lack of acting technique rather than a deliberate choice and overall there was a shortage of nuance, a lack of crispness, not quite enough bubbly. The grand exception was the orchestra who made feet want to dance all night.
© 2015 Elizabeth Paterson