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Review: DIE FLEDERMAUS (THE BAT) Brings The Comic Operetta By Strauss Up To Date

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Saturday 8th October 2016

Die Fledermaus, or The Bat, is a comic operetta by Johann Strauss II, he of the unforgettable waltz, The Blue Danube. It is packed full of beautiful melodies that are impossible to resist, and a laugh a minute story line, as Dr. Falke exacts his revenge on his friend, Gabriel von Eisenstein, who left him in an awfully embarrassing situation following an evening of drinking.

This production, intimately staged by them in the State Opera of South Australia's home, The Opera Studio, brings together the Young Artists, of the company, emerging artists, and students from the Elder Conservatorium of Music at the University of Adelaide, both singers and the Chamber Ensemble of the Elder Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra's musicians.

The company presented three performances, all of them sold out, something that appears to be the norm with State Opera. It was with good reason. This somewhat updated production, the action being transferred to the New World or, as we now know it, America, with a good degree of equally updated dialogue and reference to social norms, such as everybody freezing for a photo on the cry of "selfie" (OMG! #soveryembarrassing), pokes fun at all sorts of things and all sorts of people, like a scattergun. Nobody comes out of this unscathed.

Falke arranges an invitation for Eisenstein to attend a soiree and, without him knowing, he also provides one for his wife, Rosalinda, telling her that she will be able to catch her husband chasing after other women. Rosalinda, is unexpectedly visited by an old flame, Alfredo, whom she tries, half-heartedly, to discourage. Her chambermaid, Adele, wants the night off to go to the same, end of the century New Year's Eve party, and she believes that the invitation came via her sister, Ida, who also has an invitation to attend. Count Orlovsky is hosting the party at his club and Falke, as an amusement for the world-weary Count, has set in motion a series of awkward situations for his victims, a diversion that he titles, The Revenge of the Bat.

Eisenstein had recently hit a policeman and is due to present himself that day for a short imprisonment. When the warden, Superintendent Frank, arrives at Eisenstein's Beverley hills mansion to collect him, Alfredo has to protect Rosalinda's reputation by pretending to be Eisenstein, and is carted off to jail, while Rosalinda disguises herself as a masked Hungarian Countess and heads for the party. Adele is there, pretending to be Khloe, an aspiring actress, as she is too low class to attend as herself. Eisenstein has also adopted a false name, the Marquis Renard, as has Frank, as the Chevalier Chagrin. Confusion, deception, and an eventual resolution ensue, but not before plenty of music and laughter have occurred.

Adam Goodburn and Desiree Frahn sing the roles of the Eisensteins, individually superb, and together sensational, both adding some marvellously comic moments to their captivating singing. Not for nothing are they both very popular with Adelaide audiences, and they are in good company, because so are the rest of the cast members. They have a superb rapport that helps to bring out the comedy.

Soprano, Sarah-Jane Pattichis, shows an excellent feel for American style comedy as Adele/Khloe, brash and loud, stealing scenes in all directions. Karina Jay plays her sister, Ida, creating a nice balance in the pairing and egging on Adele giving Pattichis cause to build the comedy further.

Beau Sandford plays Rosalinda's oversexed Italian lover, Alfredo, who manages to add snatches of just about every famous tenor aria to the operetta, from his offstage prison cell in the third act. He is marvellous as the unbelievably self-confidant and blusterous Romeo, charging in to pick up where he left off and expecting Rosalinda to fall at his feet with desire.

Joshua Rowe, sings the part of Doctor Falke, bringing out that devious sense of humour that gradually takes on a more serious edge, until pulled back by Count Orlovsky. Rowe lightens the tone again as he reluctantly agrees with the Count that enough has been done and, while still fun, it is best to let things take their course.

Andrew Turner is both the drunken Superintendent Frank and, briefly, Dr. Blind, Eisenstein's lawyer. His third act with Goodburn, as both pretend to be French, is hilarious. These two make a great comedy duo and this is worth considering in future productions.

Mezzo-soprano, Courtney Turner tackled the "pants" role as Count Orlovsky, complete with bright blue beard, and platform shoes so high that they almost needed to come with an oxygen supply and parachute. Turner brought a nice touch of aloofness and boredom to her role which, in the context of the play, was most comical.

Frosch, the perpetually inebriated jailer, is played by, according to the programme, Tex Simbleton, who is cleverly revealed to be the musical director, Timothy Sexton, offering a great introduction to the third act in this non-singing role.

It is hoped that we might get a return season at some stage, and some touring would not go astray.

From This Author - Barry Lenny

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