The overture of Die Fledermaus is a splendid treat that is often played in any party that involves champagne and lavish festivities yet this comedy opera composed by Johann Strauss II in 1876, also represents the golden age of Viennese music: it is a promising opera that encompasses ideal attributes of the finest Viennese banquet.
Opera Danube’s production of the tickling farce Die Fledermaus, a two-evening affair at chandelier heaven St. Johns Smith Square, was operatic as much as it was cosy and intimate.
Under the direction of Simon Butteriss, who also sung as the narrator, Opera Danube’s talented opera singers, Orpheus Sinfonia and the London Oriana Choir proved enthusiastic and adamant to celebrate the New Year’s eve glamorous ball through their separate roles done with heart and might, but in the silly lighthearted way.
With long dialogues replaced by a narrator to act as a go-between, to hurry the opera along, and with St. Johns Smith Square’s prop-less semi-stage, opera singers managed to get away with singing ceremonially, waltzing and committing fleeting acts of adultery. The setting is disclosed through the singers’ dresses and outfits, which tended to be a throng of dinner jackets, posh waistcoats, barrister wigs, fancy dresses and sequined ones too. Nothing indicated it’s original mid-19th century setting yet the humour was palpably circa 2014.
There was a joke about Nigel Farage, the Euro, and even the Eurostar. These jokes are added in equal measure to keep the audience’s attention at bay as well as keeping them familiar with the drama of the opera.
The storyline of the opera is similar to The Marriage of Figaro, but only just. Our lead married couple Rosalinda (Elinor Rolfe Johnson) and Eisenstein (Thomas Herford) are so fed up of each other that they are keen to commit infidelity which leads them to falling for the revenge plot of their supposed friend Dr Falke (Dominic Sedgwick) who was a victim of a costume mishap that got him his nick name “die Fledermaus”. The comedy of scheming involves Faulk concocting a variety of disguises which tempts Einsenstein into seducing his wife who he thinks is a Hungarian countess. In the end, happiness relieves the tension anyway, and all is forgiven.
It was a calculated decision by Butteriss to cut out the dialogue and leave the singers to do what they do best. As our narrator moved from one joke to the next, fine singing flowed sleekly from our talented crew. The London Oriana Choir were on top form too.
The Orpheous Sinfonia conducted by Oliver Gooch foretold a Viennese tale through an ingenious score, yet I found that some of the percussions instruments got in the way; the funny noises and use of a drum drowned out the glossiness of 19th century decadence and some of the singers’ voices.
Nevertheless, this didn’t destroy the entertainment or comic value of the show. As a result, it was a fun evening and many of the audience members would agree.
These performances took place on October 17th and 18th. Click here for more information.