FARCICAL INTERPRETATION OF STRAUSS’ FAMOUS OPERETTA BRINGS LAUGHS TO CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY
Story by Megan Leahy
Photos by Michael Cooper
Die Fledermaus is one of the world’s most popular operettas, owing not only to the musical genius of Johann Strauss’s, but also to the classic tale and, set in Vienna, as a pretext for a fantastical production. The Canadian Opera Company’s latest version does not disappoint.
In his interpretation of the classic, Christopher Alden stresses of the ties between the pleasure-seeking Vienna and one of the city’s most illustrious sons, Sigmeud Freud. Freud daringly proposed that the female sexual drive is equal to that of the male. He attacked the double standard of marriage in which men are permitted to philander while women must stay at home as respectable wives and mothers.
The audience quickly learns that Gabriel von Eisenstein is a philanderer, while his unhappy bourgeois wife Rosalinde is being seduced by a tenor, Alfred. The plot begins with Eisenstein, while on his way to serve a short prison sentence for offending an official, is interrupted and convinced by his friend Dr. Falke to postpone reporting to jail in order to attend Prince Orlofsky’s ball.
Back at home, Eisenstein’s wife Rosalinde, who believes her husband to have just left for prison, is serenaded by her lover Alfred. Looking for Eisenstein, the warden visits his house to find Rosalinde in bed with Alfred whom she pretends to be her husband. The warden takes Alfred to prison convinced he is Eisenstein.
The audience quickly realizes that Dr. Falke has plotted Orlofsky’s party as a means for revenge against Eisenstein. On the way home from a costume party years prior, Eisenstein left an intoxicated Dr. Falke on a park bench dressed up as a bat instead of taking him home as promised.
Unbeknownst to Eisenstein, Dr. Falke invites both Adele, the former’s maid, and Rosalinde to come to the costume party under disguise, a crafty ploy to expose Eisenstein’s philandering ways.
The morning after, Eisenstein goes to prison to turn himself him only to find Alfred in his place, exposing his wife’s affair. Rosalinde shows up and reveals herself as the true identity of the masked Hungarian countess: the woman Eisenstein had fruitlessly tried to seduce the night before.
Falke reveals the entire charade was his doing and it is agreed champagne is rightfully to blame for any transgressions.
Michael Schade and Tamara Wilson, as Gabriel von Eisenstein and Rosalinde, gave decent performances. But it was Ambur Braid, in the role of the maid, James Westman, playing the warden, and David Pomeroy, as Alfred, who had the biggest voices and got the most laughs, owing equally to their delivery as the physical comedy. Laura Tucker was miscast as Prince Orlofsky, not bringing enough male-ego to the role.
Playing off Freud, the set is full of symbolism that does little to add to the production, but instead makes things confusing (there is no need for a giant version of Eisenstein’s babe-magnet pocket watch to loom over the stage). Costume designer Constance Hoffman deserves praise for her the sexy and extravagent costumes.
Spoken as much as it is sung, and in a lighter tone, the operetta style provides a good introduction to the opera house but often does not meet the preferences of the seasoned patron. Die Fledermaus is first and foremost an amusing farce, and Strauss makes up for any lack in depth with his beautiful waltzes.
Under the age of 30? The Canadian Opera company offers tickets for only $22.
Canadian Opera Company presents Die Fledermaus
Four Season Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen Street West, Toronto)
Runs until November 3, 2012