Die Fledermaus, one of the world’s most popular comic operetta’s, gets a wonderful revisionist make over under the direction of Christopher Alden and his team. Bringing in touches of Freudian farce, keeping the production moving at a fast pace, the story that they fashion is as follows: Herr Eisenstien (about to begin an 8 day prison sentence), his wife, Rosalinde, and her maid Adéle, all receive secret and separate invitations to attend a high-society party thrown by Prince Orlofsky. Dr Falke, a friend of Eisenstein, wishes to have revenge for a past prank – Eisenstein once publically humiliated him following a costume party at which Falke was dressed as a bat. Hence the name of the operetta, Die Fledermaus (The Bat) . All of the characters have their own hidden desires that allow them all to be used as parts of Falke’s plan.
The set, for the first act, centres on Rosalinde’s marital bed at one end of the stage, while a giant pocket watch swings over the other end. Rosalinde tosses and turns on the bed while Eun Sun Kim conducts the orchestra magnificently through the overture, at a well-chosen pace. Any remnants of ‘slushiness’ that can occasionally be brought into the opening waltzes are far removed from this production. Act I is usually set in Rosalinde’s public salon, but here all characters that enter get into, jump on, crawl under, sit on or walk around her bed. Alfred (Edgaras Montvidas) enters comically in a full Renaissance suit which he soon removes to reveal a pink corset, all the while lending his voice to the character description of ‘a hot-blooded tenor’.
There is a fair bit of dialogue in the first Act, and throughout the operetta. On the whole it is fast paced and amusing, according to the translation used (by Stephen Lawless), with only very few moments when it seems to be a tad drawn out. The attraction, after all, is, and should be, the music.
Allen Moyer’s imaginative sets fully compliment this production and really draw the audience in. Through a crack that appears in the wall of the bedroom in Act I, we glimpse first the street and then, symbolically, the sexual fantasies of the principal characters play themselves out in front of the audience. This gives way to the setting for the second Act, which takes place in Prince Orlofsky’s ballroom, still with the bed present but also with a large moveable Hollywood-style staircase. The revellers are men wearing high heels and filly garters, women in clown, doll and insect fancy dress, while the chorus-girls weave in and out dressed as bats. Dr. Falke appears as the directorial force throughout the three acts and seems to be the only person with some degree of control over these ‘bat-girls’, donning bat wings himself for some parts of Act I, Act II and the entirety of Act III. Frank, the prison governor (Andrew Shore), appears in more and more outrageous drag as the operetta powers on forward.
The third Act takes way in a concrete walled Nazi-style prison, with all the revellers and main characters present. Act III came as a bit of a let-down. The prison guard doesn’t add much to the production, in my opinion, and instead just slows down the momentum that has been experienced up to this point.
Throughout the production, the acting and the music were of an extremely high quality. Some particularly notable moments and voices include the entrance of Edgaras Montvidas, while singing some Verdi with wonderful comedic timing, Jennifer Holloway as Prince Orlofsky was fantastic, her voice lending itself to the highs and the lows splendidly and Tom Randle doing a superb job as Herr Eisenstein. The large solos and high range required for the roles of Adéle and Rosalinde were more than met by the mesmerising voices of Rhian Lois and Julia Sporsén respectively. Eun Sun Kim did an incredible job conducting and making her ENO debut with this production.
This is a highly enjoyable production, perhaps a little suggestive in places for some younger audience members, but in the end just good fun. The overall message at the end seems to be that human eccentricities and misdemeanors can all be traced back to too much champagne.