"Die Fledermaus" (The Bat) is well named, for it's a batty opera, and best served when let to flap its wings freely, as it is in the Utah Opera production that made its initial bow Thursday night.
This engaging work receives its full due in the ebullient production staged by Jack Eddleman, who knows its contours and nuances, and how to free them and send them soaring, on the personalities and abilities of his singing actors. And Utah Opera's cast is strong in both visiting and local artists.Can anyone resist the lure of Vienna in waltz time? For almost 150 years, waltz opera has been sure-fire, conveying the epitome of romance, the ambience of youth, the essence of sentiment and beauty. This lively genre, which leavens old-fashioned tenderness and sentiment with equal parts of naughty humor and chic, is badly needed in the operatic world.
Actually, what we have here is an operetta, with arias in German and conversation in English - a hybrid that has become popular everywhere of late, but whose linguistic logic baffles the musical world. Yet somehow it seems to work, especially when reinforced by Supertitles.
It is late afternoon in Vienna, where the sunlight streams through lace curtains into the charming home of Gabriel and Rosalinda Eisenstein. Here, everyone is bent upon deception. The maid Adele feigns family illness so she can go to the ball; Eisenstein is trying to finagle his way out of serving a short jail term; and Rosalinda is secretly anticipating his departure, so she can carry out a tryst with an old flame, the extroverted tenor Alfred.
Deception thickens as the prankish Dr. Falke persuades Eisenstein to postpone prison in favor of the ball, and Frank the prison governor, coming for Eisenstein, takes Alfred off to jail instead.
Adele turns up at the ball in her mistress's dress, and Rosalinda garbs herself as a Hungarian countess, to spy on her husband. All are unmasked in the end, as high spirits prevail and the bubbling of champagne is seen onstage and heard in the music.
Thursday's performance held up beautifully, with no slackening of pace or intensity. Paul Nadler presided over a nicely shaped overture, and drew generally fine accompaniment from the orchestra, pacing the work most often on the lively side. Though one occasionally felt the need for a little more ease and breathing space, one usually forgave these little surges, applauding his dispatch.
Pamela Kucenic is playing Rosalinda for the first time anywhere, and doing it beautifully. Her exciting voice is big and dramatic, occasionally overpowering the music; but its confident fullness imbues the audience with the assurance that all will go well vocally. Her Czardas is especially big and exciting. She is an amusing actress, too, with an expressive face and sly wit, and plenty of verve. A little initial stiffness should ease away with further performances.
As Eisentein, Ron Raines is a Tom Selleck look-alike with a dapper manner and infectious humor, an artful dodger who never loses his savoir faire. His pleasing baritone is rather light but carries well, and after his philandering he builds in the third act to a funny explosion of righteous indignation.
Susan Deauvono's Adele, the chamber maid who would be an actress, is light and frivolous, and if somewhat stylistically mannered, it is amusingly so. She is the ideal soubrette actress with a pretty, ringing voice that carries her popular arias, including the famous Laughing Song, throughout the hall. Deauvono has grown with Utah Opera, and holds her own in whatever company she finds herself.
Mark Pedrotti makes a sophisticated Dr. Falke, amiably intent upon gaining his revenge. He looks the suave Viennese to the life, and sings just as smoothly. David Rae Smith creates many laughs as the world-weary Prince Orlofsky, selling his songs with clear diction.
You will not find a finer Frosch the jailer than Woody Romoff, a veteran actor of impeccable timing and delivery, and excellent taste. He is only slightly drunk, moving unsteadily from one hidden bottle to another, and keeping up a stream of jokes and sight gags climaxed by a "harp" solo on flexible prison bars, as he sings a duet from "La Traviata" with Alfred.
Peterson is better than good as this aging performer, who spouts arias, sure of his Don Juan charm.
Utah Opera's chorus prepared by Byron Dean Ryan is vocally strong and expressive, looking suitably glamorous in Sue Allred's stylish clothes. They climax the second act with the beautiful "Bruederlein" and effervescent Champagne waltzes. Ballet West principals Rhonda Lee and Robert Arbogast lead other dancers in a pretty ballet scene.
Greg Griffiths is funny as the stuttering lawyer, and William Goeglein is an amusing Frank, with Robyn Lyons as Adele's sister Sally.