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Smooth Operetta

A Good Time is Had By All in Baltimore Opera's Random, Raucous Die Fledermaus

Dude, Where's My Carriage?: Vladimir Glushchak, right, cajoles David Malis into partying his cares away.

By Josephine Yun | Posted 12/11/2002

Die Fledermaus

Johann Strauss Jr.

It was random, garish, and familiar all at once. By the end of the Baltimore Opera Company's production of Johann Strauss Jr.'s Die Fledermaus at the Lyric, which opened last Saturday, it was hard to tell whether you were at the opera or a cabaret.

The raucousness began with this: Rosalinda (Susan Patterson) and Gabriel von Eisenstein (David Malis) are quite fond of each other but somewhat restless. Rosalinda is being wooed by a college sweetheart, Alfred (Gran Wilson), and Eisenstein is about to be carted off to serve some time in jail. His friend, Dr. Falke (Vladimir Glushchak), arrives under the guise of seeing him off, but he persuades Eisenstein to party out his last hours of freedom at a masquerade. Eisenstein jumps at the thought of booze and broads, but doesn't know that Falke is getting him back for the time he had to walk through town dressed as a bat (die Fledermaus) the morning after another riotous party.

Chambermaid Adele (Jane Giering-De Haan) is given the night off so Rosalinda can get it on with Alfred; she runs to the party. Kissing ensues, but then Rosalinda opens a box that had arrived earlier. Its contents invite her to the ball to see her husband philandering with other girls. To top it off, the warden comes to arrest Eisenstein and, not knowing what he looks like, pulls Alfred off to jail in Eisenstein's dressing gown. So Rosalinda is off to the ball, disguised as a Hungarian countess.

Russian Prince Orlofsky (played, in keeping with tradition, by a woman, Theodora Hanslowe) is the party's host, but he is totally bored. Eisenstein, schmoozing as a French marquis, meets the jail warden, who is disguised as another French nobleman. Falke then informs Orlofsky of the Eisenstein setup, and the prince's interest is piqued. Rosalinda arrives with fanfare, glamorous but masked. Eisenstein almost instantly begins working a rap on his own wife.

Giering-De Haan's vocal acrobatics were stunning, especially demonstrated in her "Laughing Song" party solo. Wilson stood out as well, mixing serenades with comical behavior as love-struck Alfred. Hanslowe also turned in a stellar performance as Orlofsky. Patterson's Rosalinda was decent, but the last note of her solo as the Countess Zsa-Zsa was startling, turning into a high-pitched cackle. She and Malis seemed to strain at times, appearing too old for their sprightly roles opposite Wilson's thirtysomething Alfred.

The sets--particularly the cross-section of the Eisenstein mansion, which displayed a study, the master bedroom, and connecting corridor--were fantastic, as were the costumes. Rosalinda made her appearance as Countess Zsa-Zsa in a shiny black gown spiced with gold; complete with mask, she looked like a sparkly ballroom Batman. Fluorescent gauzes and feathered plumes bestowed on other performers allowed them to be noticed as well; exotically garbed Arabian Bedouins without any lines let their green-gold costumes speak for themselves. And Adele's klutzy sister, Ida, wore a white ballerina costume with a few Swan Lakers supporting her.

Stage light was evenly distributed throughout the opera; when the hue changed, it fell across the stage like a blanket, instead of on individuals. At the party, dabs of light from a disco ball began swirling around the hall, engaging the audience. And the playful kitsch continued: In the third act, a pink, plush elephant in a tutu descended onstage to help the sloshed warden fall asleep on his desk back at the jail.

Choreography, too, was lovingly attended to--like with Alfred, throwing piece after piece of clothing from the curtained alcove behind Rosalinda's bed as he undressed. Likewise, in his excitement at Falke's invitation to go partying for the night, Eisenstein falls to the floor by the fireplace in his underwear, but when Rosalinda comes in, he is "exercising." And when Adele sings her "Laughing Song" in the second act, a gaily thrown tambourine seems wholly whimsical but is caught like a charm. And afterward, Prince Orlofsky nods along to Countess Zsa-Zsa's patriotic solo like a fellow Slav would.

A lot of work was put in to ensure that audience members would enjoy themselves--and they did. The Baltimore Opera's new, translated re-creation of Die Fledermaus was fresh, hilarious, and simply a pleasure to watch.

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