Imagine that light feeling you get from a good champagne, except lasting for many hours, including two intermissions.
That begins to describe the joyful boost you’ll get from the Lyric’s frolicking production of “Die Fledermaus”, which often translates as "The Bat's Revenge".
Better yet, think of yourself twirling in a brisk waltz, not only because several of Johann Strauss’ familiar waltz tunes are woven into the score, but also because the twists and turns of this farce uplift you as you would hope a good waltz partner would.
This is a convoluted plot in which a last laugh is sought by a man who suffered a practical joke at his friend’s hands years before. That joke gives this operetta the title of “Die Fledermaus” (the bat) because the joke involved leaving him in a drunk on a bench dressed in a bat costume.
Have no worry that your 21st Century mindset can’t quite capture the embarrassment or the joke.
In fact, don’t let the plot line and its daunting summary in the program get in the way of being entertained. Just roll with the twists and turns of this farce unwinding. Along the way the Lyric Opera ensures you will not only hear top notch singing but also see breathtaking dancers do splits in the air, watch opera singers cavort like Vaudeville comedians, and hear and read many a performer deliver lines with contemporary added punch.
While all the performers were pitch perfect in all senses, there are standouts that make this a particularly memorable production of one of the world’s favorite operettas.
First and foremost, a call out needs to go to the choreography by Daniel Pelzig and its skillful execution by the dancers (Jeffery B. Hover Jr., Megan Krauszer, Elizabeth Luse, Shannon Lindamood, Luke Manley, Todd Rhoades, Yael Levitin Saban, Greg Sample, J.P. Tenuta and Teanna Zarro). That they are dancing in a sumptuous ballroom setting courtesy of set designer Wolfram Skalicki and in richly colored and textured costumes by Thierry Bosquet is no small part of the magic.
This dancing interlude is a cameo to watching the object of the prank, Gabriel von Eisenstein performed by Bo Skovhus, get increasingly drunk with the help of the ball’s host Prince Orlofsky, a trouser role played very convincingly Emily Fons.
Eisenstein is drunk enough to forget that he really is seeing his parlormaid dancing in his wife’s dress. Drunker still, he embarks on seducing his disguised wife, enabling her to get the evidence she later needs to gain grounds for divorce.
The libretto for this operetta is a long string of amusing lines, including many contemporary improvisations added by the Lyric to give us even more reason to smile, such as references to how the jail has room for Toronto’s mayor.
The comedy begins almost as soon as the curtain goes up. When Eisenstein asks where his shoes are, both his wife and maid sing out simultaneously to look under their respective beds. If you haven’t smiled yet, you certainly will start then.
When Rosalinde von Eisenstein performed by Juliane Banse hears her former lover serenading her outside her window she quips that he is going to get her with one of his “high A’s”.
Wide-eyed audience favorite Daniela Fally as parlormaid Adele reminds of Lucille Ball up to her many antics. Whether she is feigning grief at her poor aunt’s declining health in order to get the day off from her mistress or later acting as the belle of the ball, she emanates a joyful charisma.
The comic acting by Andrew Shore as the Prison Warden with a hangover and his assistant Frosch performed by Fred A. Wellisch makes the 3rd Act a charming finale.
If you stop to consider the many adulteries and misdeeds you might start to think of this as heavy fare. Have no fear, many a tribute to champagne will keep you from going there.
There are two more performances of "Die Fledermaus" this season, but many other opportunities to enjoy the Lyric’s full season continuing through May.
For tickets visit the Lyric Opera website or call 312 827 5600.
Photos:Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago, Video: Courtesy of Lyric Opera
Published on Jan 13, 2014