There is no reference to New Year’s Eve in Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus but there should have been. In any event it is frequently performed in late December as if the plot does take place on New Year’s Eve and the Toronto Operetta Theatre is producing it for five performances including one on December 31.
With its bubbly music, wonderful arias and farcical plot, Die Fledermaus pretty much defines what an operetta should be. TOT’s General Director Guillermo-Silva-Marin knows that and knows how to entertain Toronto’s niche of operetta lovers.
Lara Ciekiewicz (Rosalinda) and Cian Horobbin (Alfred).
Photo: Gary Beechey, BDS Studios
The production is done sensibly in English, a relief for those who may remember the Canadian Opera Company’s 2012 dreary, Freudian psychodrama of a production. Silva-Marin takes generous liberties with the libretto and the result is very entertaining.
You recall that Gabriel Eisenstein (tenor Adam Fisher), a well-off Viennese business man, has to spend a few nights in jail because (in his unsubstantiated opinion) he had Dr. Blind (Sean Curran), an incompetent lawyer as his counsel. He also has a friend named Falke (Michael Robert-Broder) who has a score to settle with him. Falke is The Bat of the title and he wants to humiliate Eisenstein and the plot twists are his machinations.
Eisenstein has a beautiful wife named Rosalinda. Alfred (Cian Horrobin) an opera tenor and old pursuer of Rosalinda, is prepared to replace Eisenstein in her arms while the latter cools his heels in jail.
In the meantime, the wily maid Adele (Caitlin Wood) wants to go to a ball at Prince Orlovsky’s mansion, as do Eisenstein and Dr. Blind. To cut to the chase, Mr. and Mrs. Eisenstein, Adele, her sister Sally (Olivia Morton), and Dr. Blind all go the party in disguise. Alfred who happened to be wooing Rosalinda when Frank (Janaka Welihinda) the prison governor came to pick up Eisenstein, ends up jail. Are you still with me?
Now we have Strauss’s infectious music, his sparkling and buoyant arias and a plot with mistaken identities that provides opportunities for comedy.
Conductor Derek Bate has twelve musicians in his orchestra and twelve singers for his chorus. That may not seem like much of a force but seem and sound are not the same thing. The musicians and the singers create energy and wonderful instrumental and ensemble singing that simply belie their number.
There was inevitable unevenness in the singing by the rest of the cast but overall they did justice to the operetta and the full house in the Jane Mallet Theatre showed their appreciation.
Adam Fisher (Eisenstein) and Lara Ciekiewicz (Rosalinda).
Photo: Gary Beechey, BDS Studios
Soprano Lara Ciekiewicz played Rosalinda as a woman of statuesque beauty, class and vocal splendor. Caitlin Wood’s Adele was effervescent, wily and a pleasure though I could have done without the speech impediment she was given at the beginning.
Cian Horrobin’s Alfred was the mythical tenor. Self-assured, exuberant, brash and a lover who can’t imagine any woman saying no to him. Silva-Marin has interpolated half a dozen or so arias or parts of arias by Puccini and Verdi for Alfred to show off his ardor and his vocal prowess.
The multi-talented Elizabeth Beeler played Prince Orlovsky, a role originally scored for a mezzo soprano and frequently sung by a woman ever since. I have seen Beeler many times do fine work but this time she was not at her best.
Silva-Marin leaves no politician, celebrity or current event unturned when it comes to adding comic touches. He takes on and expands the role of Frosch the jailer himself. Alfred gives him singing lessons including points about posture – you have to be able to hold a dime between your cheeks!
The plot of Die Fledermaus is wafer-thin in places and prone to developing cracks if not handled properly and Silva-Marin comes close to doing just that but overall the comedy works as does the delightful production.