Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

Gavin Higgins' The Monstrous Child: an ROH world premiere

The Royal Opera House’s choice of work for the first new production in the splendidly redesigned Linbury Theatre - not unreasonably, it seems to have lost ‘Studio’ from its name - is, perhaps, a declaration of intent; it may certainly be received as such. Not only is it a new work; it is billed specifically as ‘our first opera for teenage audiences’.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.

Expressive Monteverdi from Les Talens Lyriques at Wigmore Hall

This was an engaging concert of madrigals and dramatic pieces from (largely) Claudio Monteverdi’s Venetian years, a time during which his quest to find the ‘natural way of imitation’ - musical embodiment of textual form, meaning and affect - took the form not primarily of solo declamation but of varied vocal ensembles of two or more voices with rich instrumental accompaniments.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Michael Spyres as Alfred, Bo Skovhus as Eisenstein and Juliane Banse as Rosalinde. Act 3. [Photo by Dan Rest]
19 Feb 2014

Die Fledermaus in Chicago

In Lyric Opera of Chicago’s recent performances of Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus several debuts are notable to both American and Chicago audiences.

Die Fledermaus in Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Michael Spyres as Alfred, Bo Skovhus as Eisenstein and Juliane Banse as Rosalinde. Act 3

Photos by Dan Rest

 

The production of Die Fledermaus is owned by the San Francisco Opera and received its first Chicago viewing in this series of performances starting in December and lasting until the latter part of January. The two female leads, Rosalinde von Eisenstein and her maid Adele, were sung by Juliane Banse and Daniela Fally respectively, the former making her American operatic debut and the latter her American stage debut. Tenor Michael Spyres, whose role of Alfred sings the opening number of the score, made his Chicago Lyric Opera debut in this production. Baritone Adrian Eröd likewise sang for the first time in this house as Dr. Falke, the friend of Gabriel von Eisenstein, husband of Rosalinde. Bo Skovhus reprised the role of Gabriel which he had sung here several years earlier. David Cangelosi portrayed his lawyer Dr. Blind and Andrew Shore was Frank, the prison warden. Yet a final significant role debut was the Prince Orlovsky sung by Emily Fons. The Lyric Opera Orchestra was conducted by Ward Stare.

Act1_DanRest1.gifDaniela Fally as Adele and Bo Skovhus as Eisenstein. Act 1

During the overture a facsimile of a Fledermaus audience-program from an 1874 performance of the opera at the Theater an der Wien was projected onto a screen covering the stage. The varied and distinct melodic parts that make up the overture were held together nicely under Mr. Stare’s direction. At the start of Act One the first two characters, both distracted by personal concerns, pursue their ambitions with vocal determination until their paths invariably cross. Alfred, the former admirer of Rosalinde von Eisenstein, sings an ardently loud serenade to honor the now married woman of the house. At the same time, the chambermaid Adele has received a note from her sister Ida, member of the corps du ballet, including an invitation to “ein grand Souper” [“exclusive late-night reception”] for which Adele must secure time off. These separate aspirations from the start of the musical drama run predictably awry and contribute with delightful symmetry to the complications of not only the first but also the following two acts. Mr. Spyres’s Alfred is appropriately passionate in his vocalism, to the extent that his eager devotion leans cleverly on the edge of several pitches in rapturous expression. Because his singing continues to hinder the maid Adele’s concentration, she orders Alfred from the premises but not before Rosalinde recognizes the voice of her former suitor. The ensuing dialogue as depicted by Ms. Banse and Ms. Nally, in which Adele pleads in vain for time to visit her “arme Tante” [“poor aunt”], is well acted and reflects their social differences by means of cleverly articulated German. After Alfred returns briefly to seek a hearing from Rosalinde, the final conflict is introduced. Gabriel arrives from court with his lawyer Dr. Blind. In the trio between husband, wife, and lawyer Gabriel’s impending prison sentence is approached with mutual accusations of guilt. Each of the principal singers matched well the brisk tempos encouraged by Mr. Stare, as each participated in the physical histrionics of ejecting Dr. Blind. His place is taken almost immediately by the entrance of Dr. Falke, an old friend of Gabriel who tenders an invitation to the very souper for which Adele has attempted to secure time away. In the role of Falke Mr. Eröd is ideally cast, his lyrical line projecting effortlessly and again showing an idiomatic sense of the text both spoken and sung. He convinces Gabriel easily to accept the invitation to Orlovsky’s souper and effectively to commence his prison sentence on the following morning. After his transformation into evening clothes and into a much more cheerful mood, Gabriel departs for the souper under the pretext of beginning his imprisonment. Ms. Banse assumes an appropriate state of confusion as she grants Adele the desired free evening, bids farewell to her husband, and faces again the presence of an importunate Alfred. Mr. Spyres’s toast to love [“Trinke Liebchen, trinke schnell” (“Drink, my darling, drink quickly”)] - performed with gusto and scrupulous diction - attempts to reverse the despondent mood of Rosalinde. When Frank the warden arrives to escort Gabriel to jail, the absence of her true husband leaves Rosalinde no choice but to proclaim that her present suitor “Kann nur allein der Gatte sein” [“can be none other than my husband”]. As such, he is escorted to jail in Gabriel’s stead.

The sentiment expressed by Alfred in his recurring lyrics at the close of the first act, “Glücklich ist, wer vergisst, was doch nicht zu ändern ist” [“Happy the one who forgets what cannot in any case be changed”] seems to haunt the atmosphere of the souper in Act Two. To be sure, Orlovsky’s dictum, that every guest must engage in pleasure or be cast out from the festivity, contributes to the frenzied amusement. In this role Ms. Fons used her extensive range remarkably by combining dramatic top notes with an extended lower register in both dialogue and sung passages. After Gabriel’s amusing exchange with the Prince, he recognizes Adele wearing one of his wife’s evening gowns. In response to her employer’s confrontation Adele’s self-defense is delightfully expressed in the laughing song “Mein Herr Marquis.” In this showpiece Fally showed herself to be the equal of the challenging vocal line, as she touched on high pitches and skittered through rapid passages as skillfully as her physical gestures during dance movements taken together with the male chorus. Additional guests arrive in disguise at Orlovsky’s fête, among these the warden Frank and Rosalinde assuming the identity of a Hungarian countess who is given the privilege of “Maskenfreiheit” [“right to wear a mask”] to protect her identity. After an amusing exchange with Skovhus, in which he loses his watch in attempting to seduce her, Banse sings the Hungarian czárdás to defend the nationality of her assumed character. Banse’s forte emphases and determined expression convince the others to accept her authenticity. Equally impressive is Falke’s encouragement for all to join in friendship, “Brüderlein und Schwesterlein,” [“Brother dear and sister dear”]. Here Eröd sang with excellent legato, carefully placed rubato on the title words, and an idiomatic sense of textual emphasis. The following ballets enliven the scene of the party until Gabriel leaves in haste to proceed to the jail.

In Act Three the expected comedy of the jail scene of Die Fledermaus is indeed featured, yet the humor remained tastefully above the level of burlesque. Frank returns to assume his post as warden, while the effect of champagne hinders his full concentration. Adele’s aria, “Spiel’ ich die Unschuld vom Lande” [“If I play the naïve maid from the country”], is sung touchingly by Fally in the reprise of which the soprano added well-chosen embellishments. The progressive unmasking of characters and their admissions of assumed identity leads naturally to a balanced ending yet leaves open the likely repeat of such an evening. In this respect, Lyric Opera of Chicago has captured the atmosphere of Strauss’s Vienna with a cast of singers and actors that make it come to life.

Salvatore Calomino

Click here for audio commentary courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):