Die Fledermaus Review - Strauss' Charming Confection Dazzles at Light Opera Works

Usually when you talk about an opera written 140-some years ago, you gush about the glory of the music or the wonderful performances by the singers.  In this production of Die Fledermaus, at Chicago’s Light Opera Works, the new translation by Quade Winter is the star.  The opera has always been amusing in German, and no one can argue with Johann Strauss’ score, but many of the English translations have been lackluster.  This one is not.  The language has been modernized and is playful and contemporary and perfect for modern audiences.  It, alone, would be worth attending the theatre to delight in, but this production has so much more to offer.

Rosalinda, Adele and Eisenstein

All of the singers are not only excellent at the vocal demands of their parts, but also at acting them.  They have impressive comedy chops and there are so many little moments of interaction and stage business that you have to watch carefully all the time, or you’ll miss something wonderful. This is an incredibly strong production in every way. 

With a charming set that morphs from elegant home, to royal palace, to “lovely, little prison”, it is as fun and frothy a confection as can be wished.  And the extremely talented ensemble makes the most of every square inch.  The costumes are similarly gorgeous, with ample sparkles, rich fabrics and enough luxury to transport the audience from a dull winter day to a delightful soiree with Vienna’s most clever prankster and the revenge of Die Fledermaus.

Rosalinda and Falke

The story is the same as ever. The opera begins in the apartments of the Eisensteins where wife Rosalinda (the exceptionally talented Alicia Berneche) has reunited with her former lover Alfred (the hilarious Tobias Wright), a singing teacher. She shoos him away just in time for her husband Gabriel (Michael Cavalieri) to return home.  Gabriel is angrily contemplating an upcoming 8-day prison sentence due to his incompetent lawyer, Dr. Blind, so when the cat’s away…. 

Alfred sings

Meanwhile, housemaid Adele (adorable Kelly Britt) has received a letter she believes is from her dancer sister, Ida, inviting her to the ball thrown by Prince Orlofsky.  She invents a sick aunt and asks for time off, but her mistress refuses.

Adele kicks up her heels

It can’t be overstated how strong these four are in their roles.  Their singing is exceptional and their comedy timing is spot on. Every time one or more of them is interacting, you’re in for a treat. Watch  Britt and Berneche here, in particular, for some amazing comedy business.

Gabriel’s friend Falke (William Roberts, with superb comedic sense) arrives and invites him to the ball and they recall an old practical joke that Falke was on the bad end of, winding up with Falke doing a walk of shame through the streets of Vienna dressed in a bat costume.  Gabriel decides to ditch prison for a trip to the ball with his friend and heads off. Adele is also given the night off.

Rosalinda, Adele and Eisenstein

Alfred returns and woos Rosalinda followed closely by Frank (Russell Hoke), the governor of the prison, who has come to escort Gabriel to his incarceration. Alfred can’t reveal who he is and destroy Rosalinda’s reputation, so he goes to prison in Gabriel’s stead.

Alfred goes to jail

Act Two opens at the lovely house of the Prince Orlofsky (William Dwyer, who kills in what is usually a trouser role for a Mezzo Soprano, but I do wonder why they opted to give it to a man instead of keeping it traditional) where we learn that all of the main participants in Act One have been invited as part of an elaborately staged farcical revenge by Falke, and to amuse the Prince, who is generally bored by life. Falke has invited Frank, Adele and Rosalinda to the ball and provided all with false identities.  Eisenstein is the French Marqius Renard, Frank is Chevalier Chagrin and Adele, who has borrowed one of Rosalinda’s dresses, arrives with her sister, Ida (elegant Alexis Armstrong), and pretends to be an actress in search of a patron. Meanwhile Rosalinda has donned a mask to appear as an incognito Hungarian countess.

Count Orlofsky throws a ball

Gabriel is astonished to see Adele, but she ends up convincing him she is not his maid, but an actress, in the famed “Laughing Song”. He and Frank meet for the first time and while both are pretending to be French, neither can speak the language and their clumsy attempts fool each other but amuse everyone else. Adele charms Frank, posing as the Chevalier, hoping to find a sponsor and leave domestic service. Rosalinda arrives and convinces the company she is Hungarian by singing a Hungarian song in an exaggerated accent.

Fake Marquis and Counterfeit Countess

Gabriel attempts to woo her, while she knows exactly who he is.  He has a watch he uses to seduce young women and she successfully captures it to later use it as blackmail against his infidelity.  At the end of the night they all toast to Champagne and sing its praises and waltz to the famed Strauss waltz.  At the end of the night Gabriel runs off to prepare for jail while Frank has to go to preside over it.

Adele toasts to champagne

In Act Three we arrive at the jail to find the jailer Frosch, gloriously drunk. There is an extended spoken comedy scene here where Tim Kazurinsky (the only Equity actor in this production, astonishingly) makes the most of his time including the conductor and audience in his banter and making a lot of jokes at Alfred’s expense.  Alfred has been singing random opera arias and irritating everyone in the prison.

Drunken Frosch is comedy gold

Adele and Ida arrive to cement the sponsorship of Chevalier Chagrin but Frank doesn’t have the money on his salary. Alfred calls for a lawyer and Frosch summons Dr. Blind (Dennis M. Kalup), who arrives.  Gabriel comes to the prison to begin his sentence, but Frank recognizes him as the Marquis and he is told that he already is serving it. He adds that the man he arrested was in tete a tete with Rosalinda at the time and Gabriel is enraged. He disguises himself as Dr. Blind to interrogate Alfred. Rosalinda arrives and Eisenstein confronts her and Alfred on their infidelity.  Rosalinda produces his watch and he realizes she is the Hungarian countess from the night before.

Adele and Ida charm Frosch

Falke arrives with all the party guests and reveals the entire evening was a set up and payback for the bat incident from years before. Everyone is delighted by this, including Gabriel, who blames his attempt at infidelity on the champagne and is forgiven by Rosalinda.  Orlofsky becomes Adele’s acting patron and they reprise the Champagne song from Act. II

And Champagne is what the entire production is.  Delightful, bubbly and a perfect way to start the New Year. 

At the production, Light Opera Works announced that they will return in 2017 as Music Theatre Works with a season including Candide, Gypsy, Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits, and family favorite, Peter Pan.

  Check out Quade Winter’s translations here.

Purchase 2017 Music Theatre Works tickets here.

 

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