BWW Review: DIE FLEDERMAUS at Santa Fe Opera

On August 1, 2017, Santa Fe Opera presented Johann Strauss II's operetta, DIE FLEDERMAUS (THE BAT). The original German libretto was by Carl Haffner and Richard Genée, but this audience heard it sung in an English translation by Ruth and Thomas Martin with dialogue adapted by Charles Ludlam from W. S. Gilbert's play ON BAIL. Gilbert based his play on a work by Meilhac and Halévy.

To my mind, this is the first production in which THE BAT, himself, had a major part. Scenic Designer Allen Moyer's huge animal hung spread-eagled above the stage with eyes and talons that sometimes emitted blue light. Moyer's stage was a series of platforms that, for Act I, blocked off the rooms of the Eisensteins' well-furnished apartment. Act II, Prince Orlovsky's villa, had to accommodate a huge number of lead singers, choristers, and dancers on stage. Thus, it consisted mainly of a grand staircase and two elegant, red velvet couches downstage. For Act III, Moyer depicted the Warden's Office backed by jail cells.

Duane Schuler's lighting gave the appearance of an earlier time with soft, ambient illumination. Costume Designer Zack Brown and Co-Costume Designer Christianne Myers enhanced the production with richly detailed nineteenth century dresses, suits, and ballet outfits. There was a great deal of dancing in this show and Seán Curran's choreography was both artistic and amusing. I loved the men who executed double cartwheels and the young lady who completed a dozen fouetté turns.

Director Ned Canty told his story clearly so that the audience had no trouble understanding the complicated tale. He offered a great deal of dialogue, however, and occasionally there were long stretches between musical numbers. Albuquerque tenor, Kurt Streit was a commanding Eisenstein who thought he had his affairs well in hand. As his wife, Rosalinda, Devon Guthrie could not wait to even her score with him as she sang honeyed tones and silver-tipped high notes. Jane Archibald sang Adele, Rosalinda's maid, with clear, strong high notes that could be heard in all their lyrical beauty over the entire chorus. Her second act aria was both amusing and technically proficient as she emitted trills and runs with ease.

Dimitri Pittas began with a tight sound but his voice warmed to lyric tenor tones and his short snippets of familiar Italian arias were fun. Paula Murrihy sang the part of the bored Prince with well-oiled low notes and many a humorous move. This Orlovsky was a most accommodating and entertaining party host. Toward the end of Act II, someone yelled "Scaramucci's out" and the whole house erupted in laughter.

As Dr. Falke, Joshua Hopkins set much of the plot in motion while singing with bronzed tones. David Govertsen was an impressively drunk Warden and Kevin Burdette a most amusing Jailer. Apprentices Adelaide Boedecker and Stephen Carroll made their characters, Ida and Dr. Blind, come to life. Other apprentices formed Susanne Sheston's excellent chorus who sang many exquisite numbers in this festival of Viennese melody.

Australian conductor Nicholas Carter kept the show moving at a brisk pace and the musical tension never lagged for a moment. The Santa Fe Opera Orchestra played with near perfection but occasionally a singer got behind one of Carter's charging rhythms. Eventually, THE BAT got his revenge and the opera audience went home with Strauss's wonderful Viennese melodies whirling around in their heads.

Photo Credit: Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera

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From This Author Maria Nockin