Wednesday 20 July 2016

Die Fledermaus - Review

Opera Holland Park, London


by Johan Strauss II
Libretto by Karl Haffner and Richard Genee
Libretto translation by Alistair Beaton
Directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans

John Lofthouse, Peter Davoren and Susanna Hurrell 

There can truly be no finer night to visit Martin Lloyd-Evans' new production of Die Fledermaus than the hottest day of the year. As the sun set over the Opera Holland Park arena, West London's balmy climes proved a perfect ambience for this most barmy of operettas.

And make no mistake - the story of Die Fledermaus requires ones disbelief to be suspended beyond belief. It's a crackpot tale of the ultimate mate's revenge - involving more infidelity, cuckoldry and trousers around ankles than could fill a season of Whitehall farces. Amidst a risible plot of deception and frustrated assignations, the dated (but nonetheless mildly witty) humour of act one evaporates after the break - and the final act's nod to pantomime, with its references to Cameron, Johnson, Farage et al is already found to be woefully out of date by its omission of Theresa May! 

Alistair Beaton's 1994 translation may be a masterpiece of alliteration and assonance - but it really needed the wit of Jimmy Perry and David Croft to take a 19th century comedy classic and update it to something more than an episode of 'Allo 'Allo! and one that lasts for nigh on three hours at that!

That being said......

The artistic values behind this production are really rather glorious. Ben Johnson and Susanna Hurrell are the married Von Eisenstein and Rosalinde, both desperately and futilely craving extra-marital fornication and they are both magnificent. Hurrell in particular with the gorgeous Hungarian Countess' Csárdás in act two. Peter Davoren's irresistibly adulterous tenor Alfred is another performance of vocal excellence - though the true honours of the night must go to the northern-tones of Jennifer France's Adele who makes sensational work of The Laughing Song.

Under John Rigby's baton the orchestra are magnificent - and for those reading this, who are unfamiliar with the piece, seek out the Die Fledermaus Waltz. You'll find that you've known it for years - and hearing it played with such finesse is truly a treat.

As ever, takis designs imaginatively. Set in the 1920's, his imagery is heavy on Art Deco and Mondrian, with some wonderful gowns for the ladies attending Count Orlofsky's ball - not least the feathered number put to good use by Didi Derrière in a brief moment of burlesque cabaret. Howard Hudson's lighting is similarly dreamy - taking on increasing force as the evening's natural light gradually fades. 

Die Fledermaus' libretto may be tedious - but its delivery at Opera Holland Park, in both style and performance is stunning.

In repertory until August 5

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