Lyric Opera of Chicago Presents Die Fledermaus

At the ball

Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Die Fledermaus is captivating. Figuring out who is who and what is what is so compelling that a 'Die Fledermaus' break is a great antidote to holiday pressures and winter blues.  With the sights and sounds of 'Die Fledermaus'  in our heads, we floated out of the Civic Opera house with big smiles feeling energized.  If you don't have tickets yet, get them immediately as only nine performances remain.

Parlormaid, Adele with Gabriel and Rosalinde von Eisenstein

Die Fledermaus (the bat) is a comic operetta composed by Johann Strauss II with libretto by Carl Haffner and Richard Genee. It premiered on April 5, 1874 at Theater at der Wien in Vienna, Austria. At the time, the 'Morgen-Post' stated that Strauss's music 'rings in the ear and travels through the blood to the legs, and even the most insignificant person in the audience involuntarily nods his head, sways his body, and stamps his feet.' I couldn't agree more.

Dr. Falke and Gabriel von Eisenstein plotting

This  popular Viennese operetta reveals many amorous intrigues played out in a score that bubbles like the champagne celebrated in one of its famous songs.

Gabriel and Rosalinde van Eisenstein lament

At the center of the story are Gabriel and Rosalinde von Eisenstein, a couple suspicious of each other's infidelity. These suspicions prove to be justified and lead to hilarious complications helped along by Gabriel's devious friend Falke (German baritone Martin Gantner/Lyric debut) who is out for merry revenge on Eisenstein for having left Falke asleep on a park bench while drunk and costumed as a bat, becoming the laughingstock of passersby the next day.

Alfred surprises Rosalinde

Adele is the Eisenstein's perky chambermaid (German soprano Marlis Petersen/Lyric debut) and Rosalinde's old flame, the opera singer Alfred (English tenor Bonaventura Bottone) add to the story The blase Prince Orlofsky (English mezzo-soprano Alice Coote) hosts a lavish ball where much of the evening's misadventures blossom. Also involved are Frank, the prison warden (English baritone Andrew Shore), Gabriel's bumbling lawyer, Dr. Blind (American tenor Dennis Petersen), and Frosch, the ever-soused prison guard (Chicago actor Fred A. Wellisch).

Dr. Blind, the lawyer, with Gabriel and Rosalinde

The non-singing role of Frosch has come to be seen as the comic highlight in the third act of each production. We happened to be sitting next to one of the 35 individuals who responded to the Lyric Opera call for German speaking individuals to audition.  Arthur Helwing, a former German teacher at Mather High School, who auditioned for the part on September 27, 2006, knew he didn't get the part when he learned that a Viennese accent was desired and he didn't have one.  He regards the audition as a memorable experience, one that also lead him to a deeper understanding of the operetta.

Adele with the corps de ballet at Count Orlovsky's ball

Characters don various disguises, assume fake accents and aliases, pursue romantic adventures, and attempt to dupe each other. Everyone gets his or her comeuppance. The Eisenstein's marriage is looking shaky but when they reconcile, it is the moment for another champagne toast.  I loved the sets, costumes, and all of the dancing. Marlis Petersen, as Adele, was outstanding.

A toast to bubbly champagne

Bruce Donnell's stage direction and Asher Fisch's conducting along with Ulisse Santicchi's set designs and Christine Binder's lighting designs added to the magic of the evening. Daniel Pelzig is choreographer, and Donald Palumbo is chorus master.

In German (for the first time at Lyric) with projected English titles.

Contact Lyric of Chicago at 312-332-2244 or 

Tickets are available for Dec 20, Jan. 6, 10(ma), 12, 14(ma) 16, 19, 25(ma), 27. Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and matinees at 2:00 p.m.

The Julius Frankel Foundation production. Revival generously made possible by Mr. & Mrs. Dietrich M. Gross.

Photos by Dan Rest and Robert Kusel.

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