BWW Reviews: The Long and Short of It--DIE FLEDERMAUS and THE MAGIC FLUTE at the Met
Before seeing the Met's new production of Johann Strauss Jr.'s DIE FLEDERMAUS, directed by Jeremy Sams, on Saturday night, I listened to the afternoon's live broadcast of Mozart's THE MAGIC FLUTE. Both were written in German and performed in English to make them more palatable to their target audiences (Broadway musical lovers and young opera-goers-in-training, respectively). Both had lots of dialogue interspersed between musical numbers. But, while the Mozart had its guts cut away to shave the running time to 90 minutes without an intermission, the FLEDERMAUS went on--and on and on--for four hours. Both had the same result--and it was not good.
I won't say much about the Mozart, since I only experienced the performance via radio, but it seemed a pretty pallid version of the piece, and a far cry from the full production created by Julie Taymor when it was new. Baritone Nathan Gunn's lively Papageno and the coloratura fireworks of soprano Albina Shagimuratova, as the Queen of the Night, were mostly responsible for bringing it to life, under Jane Glover's firm baton. Otherwise, I was left thinking about all the great music that was missing.
Falling in and out of love
There's really nothing wrong with this FLEDERMAUS--a tale of falling in and out of love, ambition, revenge, mistaken identities and general silliness--that about an hour's worth of pruning wouldn't fix. That would cut out a good portion of Douglas Carter Beane's jokes that don't land and new lyrics, from the pen of director Sams, that have a similar problem. (By the time the famous overture is through, you've heard highlights of the best of the lively score, but there's still a lot more.)
To be fair, Beane surely didn't have enough time in front of a live audience--that's what putting on opera is like vs. the sometimes-endless preview process on Broadway (his usual milieu)--to see what worked and what didn't. That puts the blame squarely on the director, who should have brought in a surer hand for the lyrics, leaving him time to concentrate on getting the show in shape.
Gorgeous sets and costumes