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Friday, January 31, 2014

Die Fledermaus is Bubbly, Frothy, Fun!

There's a whole song about drinking Champagne in Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II and like that bubbly beverage, Edmonton Opera's production is effervescent and giggle-producing. I took in the Dress Rehearsal/Student matinee on Thursday and was treated to a colourful farce complete with disguises, masks, dancing and incarceration.  It's in English, which was a treat, as I didn't have to rely on the supertitles very much and I could watch more of the show.  The music is also wonderful with lush voices provided by beautiful people!

A married woman, Rosalinde (Betty Waynne Allison), is visited by an opera-singing suitor from her past, Alfred (Adam Fisher).  Her husband Eisenstein (Gordon Gietz) is due to serve time in jail for a minor charge. So Rosalinde and Alfred plan for a tryst in Eisenstein's absence.  This also works out for their chambermaid Adele (Jaqueline Woodley) who wants the night off to go to a grand party hosted by the Prince Orlofsky (Gerald Thompson).  However, we find out the entire evening has been set up by Dr. Falke (Peter McGillivray) who Eisenstein played a joke on previously. Dr. Falke manages to get all the players to the party, each pretending to be someone that they aren't and the resulting flirting, dancing and drinking leads to more and more complications.  It's a farcical piece punctuated with bright music that bubbles.

I loved Adele's Laughing Song and the song about Champagne the most, I think because they were both familiar to me, but also because they were attacked with a real vibrancy.  The cast as a whole goes for the laughs, playing up the physical humour to support the ridiculous premise.  Gietz has one of those dreamy voices and together with Waynne Allison we hear some beautiful singing. Woodley's voice is bright and bubbly, just like the Champagne.  This is not the kind of script that requires a deep emotional commitment.  This cast attacks it with levity and a sense of fun.  Fisher's Alfred plays up a ridiculous accent with great relish and no apologies.  Thompson as Orlofsky is simply over-the-top hilarious (my jaw dropped when he started singing). In a wonderful surprise, local favorite Julian Arnold plays the jailer Frosch and his banter with the audience is a delight with topical references that drew many laughs even from the youthful audience (they even seemed to get the Rob Ford jokes).

I did, however, wish for a little more creative use of the stage, particularly in the second act.  The pictures often flattened out and I wondered why they didn't use the depth of the stage more (having seen the last few productions, I know it can be done).  Despite having such a large proscenium it felt crowded in the second act as the sizable chorus was packed into a very narrow alley.  Sometimes this led to the chorus pulling focus from the important action. I just think that changing the staging to use the depth of the stage would make more of the beautiful costumes and set and support the action more.  There were also times when I was watching a "drunken" chorus member when I should have been watching the person singing.  A better distribution of bodies and smaller choices by some of the chorus members might help minimize that.

However, this is not a show of deep thoughts and maybe I am being a little picky. It's a fun silly romp with excellent singing and beautiful costumes and it was an enjoyable afternoon.

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