|Stephen Carroll, Devon Guthrie, and Kurt Streit in Santa Fe Opera's production of Die Fledermaus|
Credit for this delight can be shared by the exemplary cast, all of whom possessed impressive comic chops, and a delightful production that emphasized the frivolous French farce nature of the work. The preamble to the story is that Herr Eisenstein (tenor Kurt Streit) once played a nasty prank on his friend Dr. Falke (baritone Joshua Hopkins). abandoning the drunken doctor on a park bench one night in full bat costume.
Dr. Falke has arranged an elaborate revenge, inviting Eisenstein to a fancy masked ball hosted by the eccentric aristocrat Prince Orlovsky (mezzo Susan Graham in travesti and very very funny). Eisenstein is quite a flirt and seizes the invitation, even though he is supposed to report to jail for a brief sentence that has been extended by the supposed stupidity of his lawyer Dr. Blind (Apprentice Singer tenor Stephen Carroll).
Dr. Falke's plot will not only exact revenge but will be a source of "innocent merriment" for the bored Prince. He has invited Eisenstein's wife Rosalinda (the superlative soprano Devon Guthrie) who will pretend to be an Hungarian countess and seduce her clueless husband. He has also invited Adele, the Eisenstein's pretentious chambermaid (splendid soprano Jane Archibald), who will pretend to be a Russian actress.
Ms. Archibald dazzled in her "laughing song" and Ms. Guthrie knocked our socks off with her paean to her "Hungarian homeland". All of the coloratura was finely rendered and as exciting as could be.
Bass-baritone David Govertsen was excellent in the role of Frank, the Warden of the jail. He also is at the party, pretending to be a French Chevalier and speaking ridiculous pidgin French with Eisenstein who was pretending to be a Marquis.
In the role of the jailer Frosch, we had the bass-baritone Kevin Burdette. We have always enjoyed his singing but never knew how totally hilarious he could be. His performance in the final act was filled with pratfalls and sight-gags.
As the Italian Tenor, Dimitri Pittas serenaded Rosalinda in Act I and went to jail in place of her husband.
Adele's sister Ida was finely performed by Apprentice Singer soprano Adelaide Boedecker. Everyone performed as a finely tuned ensemble, giving the work a fine unity.
Maestro Nicholas Carter wielded his baton with panache and the lively waltzes kept us swaying in our seat. Ned Canty's direction kept things moving at break-neck pace. Zack Brown and Christianne Meyers' Costume Design was perfectly suited to late 19th c. Vienna when Waltz was King. Allen Moyer's sets were exactly right. Act I suggested an upper class Viennese home; Act II recreated a splendid palace ballroom with all kinds of hanky-panky going on. The jail of Act III was also true to time and place.
Sean Curran's choreography featured a quartet of ballet dancers performing what resembled a Viennese interpretation of the French Can-Can. Risque for sure but not too risque if you want to bring your youngsters. The young man in the row behind us stayed awake, didn't wriggle, and had a wonderful time, as he told us after the performance.
As we have come to expect, Susanne Sheston's chorus of Apprentice Singers performed admirably and looked sensational in the ballroom scene.
Regular readers know that we always have a little quibble, even when we love a performance. Our quibble for this production is that it was sung in English. We greatly prefer the original German, although we admit that the singers' diction could not be faulted. Our favorite way to hear this operetta is with English dialogue and German singing. The translation and additional dialogue seemed to suit the audience, even when it didn't pass our test!
(c) meche kroop