BWW Blog: Soprano Julia Engel - DIE FLEDERMAUS at Opera in the Heights

Soprano Julia Engel
Photo by Shannon Langman

As the summer turns to fall (in spirit, it's still 90+ degrees out here in Houston) the artists at Opera in the Heights gear up for their 21st season. Opening the season is the ever-popular Strauss operetta Die Fledermaus, which is rife with catchy tunes, traditional Viennese waltzes and stunningly beautiful vocal lines.

Maestro Eiki Isomura has said of the piece that it is the "champagne of opera," and he is right. I've left every single rehearsal humming something that had been staged that day and have already laughed enough in the past 10 days to last me at least a month. This show is sure to have the audience clapping, laughing and perhaps even singing along!

Rehearsals began the evening of Monday, August 22nd, with a reading of the script and a sing-through of the score. Within the first few minutes, everyone in the cast and our director (Bill Fabris) and stage manager (Rachel Walrath) found themselves cracking up. I knew that I was in a great place making art with extremely talented singing actors and that this show would go off without a hitch well before we took our first break.

Many of the characters are employing foreign accents, adding to the comedy of the show. My character, Adele, has two accents; the priMary Being the traditional cockney, or East London, accent and the secondary being a traditional and very proper London accent. Prince Orlofsky has a Russian accent, Dr. Falke a traditional London accent, and both Rosalinda and Eisenstein have neutral American accents as the high class Viennese couple. I am not the only character that gets to use two different accents during the course of this show, but I won't spoil the surprise!

Julia Engel as Sophronia in DON PASQUALE
Photo by Gwen Turner Juarez

While the performances themselves very much give life to us opera singers, the rehearsals are a fun and integral process as well. It has been such a pleasure to be able to surround myself with people I consider not only colleagues, but friends during this process and to see what silly jokes or comedic timing we come up with! This was also true for past productions I have done with the company, those being FALSTAFF (2012-2013), DON PASQUALE (2013-2014) and THE TELEPHONE (2015-2016).

There is a level of extreme intimacy in Lambert Hall that one cannot experience in other larger opera houses here in Houston and around the country, which only heightens the emotions felt by the singers, and in turn the audience, for each performance. You have a much higher likelihood of witnessing spit (usually unintentional) produced by any of us onstage as a result of singing at Opera in the Heights than at Houston Grand Opera or the University of Houston's Moores Opera House.

Perhaps the greatest adventure for me throughout this process has been going through it all pregnant! My son is due November 28th and it has been so much fun to prepare and rehearse a role while pregnant. It's something I'd always hoped would happen and has been a wonderful learning experience for me as a singer and performer, primarily where support is concerned! If you're interested in seeing how a singer handles a comedic coloratura role in her 7th month of pregnancy, this is the show for you. There may or may not be some jokes done at my expense as well...come see and hear for yourself!

DIE FLEDERMAUS performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 16; 2 p.m. Sunday, September 18; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 22; and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 24. Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Blvd. For information, please call 713-861-5303 or visit $15 - $75.

The Sunday, September 18 matinee includes post-performance "Talk Back" Q&A with the cast and the Thursday, September 22 evening performance includes post-show cocktail hour for YOLO - Oh!'s Young Professionals program.

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