United States J. Strauss, Die Fledermaus: Soloists, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Ward Stare (conductor), Civic Opera House, Chicago. 21.12.2013 (JLZ)
Rosalinde: Juliane Banse
Eisenstein: Bo Skovhus
Adele: Daniela Fally
Falke: Adrian Eröd
Alfred: Michael Spyres
Prince Orlofsky: Emily Fons
Dr. Blind: David Cangelosi
Frosch: Fred Wellisch
Ida: Julie Anne Miller
Ivan: Will Liverman
Die Fledermaus – Ward Stare
Conductor: Ward Stare
Stage Director: E. Loren Meeker
Set Designer: Wolfram Skalicki
Costume Designer: Thierry Bosquet
Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler
Chorus Master: Michael Black
Choreographer: Daniel Pelzig
Since its premiere in 1874, Johann Strauss, Jr.’s Die Fledermaus has held the stage worldwide, and has been a strong part of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s repertoire since was first performed here in 1982. The 2013 production, which San Francisco Opera created, offers an appealing staging for this famous score. With their detail and period style, the colorful sets transport the audience to late nineteenth-century Vienna. The two levels of Eisenstein’s home have plenty of room for interacting, with the cut-away look allowing a view of the upstairs and downstairs, connected with a central staircase. The palace of Prince Orlofsky is tastefully decorated, with the space opening to the back of the stage so that the guests and dancers can move easily in the second act. The jail used in the third act echoes some of the art-deco architecture of fin-de-siècle Vienna. It is lavish for a prison, but the second floor seems obligatory for the ensemble at the end of the opera.
Lyric’s cast gave a spirited performance through a fine balance between musical acumen and dramatic pitch. The skillfully executed ensembles were handled with finesse, with the fine principals giving persuasive readings of the arias. The orchestra was reliable, under the careful attention of conductor Ward Stare, who paid great attention to the score’s details, with nice turns of phrase, figuration clearly presented, and easily mediated tempo changes. Stare brought out nuances without ever sacrificing the larger structure—always exuberant and fresh.
Juliane Banse handled the role of Rosalinde convincingly. She established her character at the beginning, not only through her acting and singing, but also through body language. Her exchanges with her former lover Alfred (sung by Michael Spyres) were simultaneously believable and comic; the honest reactions to the intrusion of her former lover into Rosalinde’s life were the essence of the comedy. Banse’s musicality was essential—her stylized csárdás “Klänge der Heimat” in particular.
Daniela Fally was equally strong as the maid Adele, and while her comic touches were sometimes over the top, she was completely on the mark vocally. A strong part of every ensemble in Die Fledermaus, Fally was reliable for pitch, phrasing and inflection—especially her tone in the passages with Viennese dialect. Most of all, Fally gave the final-act “Spiel’ ich die Unschuld vom Lande” fitting grace and charm, her approach bringing out the aria’s operatic aspects. The Austrian baritone Adrian Eröd embodied Falke as if he were the character in real life. His native sense of the language brought out nuances throughout, particularly the first-act duet “Komm mit mir zum Souper.” If Eröd was musically lithe, he showed equal physical prowess at the end of the duet, when he concluded it with a back flip that landed him on a chair.
As Eisenstein Bo Skovhus made the most of the comic character, who tries to escape both his prison sentence and his marriage vow. In addition to his fine duet with Eröd, Skovhus’s part in the first-act trio “Nein, mit solchen Advokaten” was also memorable. He was similarly deft in the second act, especially the duet with the masked Rosalinde “Dieser Anstand,” which had an unflagging sense of tension. He was supported nicely by secondary characters, like David Cangelossi’s Dr. Blind, which was very good musically and comically. As Frank, Andrew Shore was charming, especially in the double-deception playing an ersatz Frenchman in “Mein Herr Marquis.” Moreover, Emily Fons made the character of Count Orlofsky a pivotal part of the evening, with her rich mezzo fitting the role well. The sincere tone she set with the number “Brüderlein und Schwesterlein” carried through to the other soloists and the chorus.
In fact, the chorus stood out with its burnished sound and well-voiced sonorities both here and in other second-act numbers. With firm pitch and clear diction, the chorus had a strong presence, and credit is due to Chorus Master Michael Black for preparing them. Together with the orchestra, the chorus was integral to this impressive performance. This stylish production was a treat during the holiday season, and continues in the early part of the new year. Those who have not yet attended should consider seeing it soon.
James L. Zychowicz