A review by Julia Gasper
Strauss’s insouciant operetta is a treat at any time of year, but especially suitable for Christmas as the plot revolves around a New Year’s ball, and this production created a wonderfully festive feel. The music, conducted by the enthusiastic young James Southall, was an absolute joy from beginning to end. I think this young man has a great future. The translation of the libretto by David Pountney and Leonard Hancock was witty and bright, and ensured that the comedy really hit its mark.
The two lead roles, of Eisenstein (Mark Stone, baritone) and Rosalinde (Judith Howarth, soprano) were well matched and both gave admirable performances. Howarth performed the star turn, the Hungarian Czardas, in Act 2, with a glorious voice and appropriately histrionic style. It was amusingly staged too, as the Hungarians at the party sat at her feet, awed and mesmerized.
In the role of Adele, the maid, Welsh soprano Rhian Lois was simply perfect. Stylish and full of mischief, with an enchanting voice, she gave a confident and sparkling performance. The tenor Paul Charles Clarke, as Alfredo, gave us a lot of delightful spoof extracts from famous operas (never mind if they were written a bit after Die Fledermaus) and was very funny throughout. James Cleverton (baritone) made a fine prison governor, and Steve Spiers made a fine Frosch, the gaoler.
In some ways, the real star of this whole operetta is Prince Orlofsky, the mysterious, fabulously rich Russian who gives the ball to try to assuage his boredom at having the whole world at his feet. Anna Harvey (soprano) took this trouser role with applomb, giving us a Prince who was epicene and languid, but roused to enthusiasm by the entertainment provided by the guests who challenge each other about their identities and flirt incognito. He has the celebrated champagne aria and acts as a sort of embodiment of gaiety and carousing.
Altogether this production of Die Fledermaus is a triumph and should not be missed by any opera fan. The audience were carried away and intoxicated by the scampering polkas and vertiginous waltzes of Johann Strauss’s music.
2nd December 2017.