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Fledermaus, Strauss II: DR FALKE

Die Fledermaus

Operetta in 3 acts

1991_Fledermaus_WNO_Janice_Watson_and_Peter_Bronder

Janice Watson and Peter Bronder

Composer : Johann Strauss II
Librettist : Haffner and Genée
Venue and Dates : Welsh National Opera on tour 1991:
Cardiff (New Theatre) : 26 September, 2,4 October
Liverpool (Empire Theatre) : 9, 12 October
Birmingham (Hippodrome) : 16, 19 October
Swansea (Grand Theatre) : 24 October
Oxford (Apollo Theatre) : 6, 9 November
Southampton (Mayflower Theatre) : 13, 16 November
Bristol (Hippodrome) : 20, 23 November
Plymouth (Theatre Royal) : 27, 30 November
Conductor: Marco Guidarini  (26 Sept to 19 Oct, 6, 13, 20, 23 Nov)
Gareth Jones  (24 Oct, 9, 16, 27, 30 Nov)

Director : Helmut Polixa
Set Designers : Kathrin Kegler and Russell Craig (Act 2)
Original Costume Designer : Marie Therese Cramer
Revival Costume Designer : Terry Frances Parr
Lighting Designer : Michael Spray
Performers :
Adele : Linda Kitchen
Rosalinde : Janice Watson
Alfred : Peter Bronder
Eisenstein : Peter Savidge (Christopher Goldsack 2, 4 Oct)
Blind : Ralph Mason
Falke : Simon Keenlyside
Frank : Barry Mora
Prince Orlofsky : Eirian James
Ida : Alexandra Hann
Frosch : James Miller-Coburn

Soundbites

Kenneth Loveland, Opera magazine, December 1991

Performance on 2 October at the New Theatre, Cardiff

‘Going to prison in evening dress? It does have a certain sense of style’, muses Rosalinde. But a sense of style is just what is missing from Helmut Polixa’s 1987 production in its revised form, with just one distinguished exception.

Kathleen Kegler’s sets for Act 1 make a frigid background; and frigid the Eisenstein apartment might well be, since the window is left open during a wintry snow storm. Russell Craig’s new designs for Orlofsky’s villa are similarly bare, hardly what you would expect of someone described in the programme as a Russian millionaire. The inhabitants and their behaviour suggest an amateur brothel. Polixa’s efforts to make Fledermaus a sexy romp merely succeed in cheapening it. Worst of all are the cutout nudes which descend clumsily from the flies, as though he is telling us that you can’t possibly enjoy Fledermaus without a heaven-sent bonus of naked female bums and breasts.

One could hardly expect the singers to give of their best, though the attempts to do so were heroic on the night I attended. Peter Bronder’s Alfred and Eirian James’s Orlofsky managed it against all odds, the one inventively funny, the other nonchalantly poised. Simon Keenlyside was clearly a Falke who would prosper in a different production, so too with Barry Mora’s polished Frank. Linda Kitchen’s agile Adele was acceptable. Janice Watson would have sung Rosalinde’s csárdás even better had there not been so much else going on at the same time. Christopher Goldsack, substituting for the indisposed Peter Savidge, sang fluently without really establishing Eisenstein as a character. But he could hardly be blamed. The chorus contrived to sing well despite all.

So where did the exceptional distinction lie? Down in the orchestra pit. where Marco Guidarini displayed a genuine affection for the music which was stilled elsewhere, producing playing that was crisp yet relaxed. Rubato was gently but positively applied, niceties of expression were asked for and achieved. The upper strings and woodwind constantly supplied elegance of tone and style. Here then was an idiomatically Viennese performance. The overture was really the most satisfying event of the evening.

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