Sneak preview of Die Fledermaus

Female chorus member – Sketch: Constance Hoffman

There’s an event on in Toronto this weekend called “CultureDays”.  The COC’s contribution last night was an open orchestra dress rehearsal of Christopher Alden’s new production of Die Fledermaus preceded by a talk in the Richard Bradshaw Auditorium by set designer Allen Moyer and costume designer Constance Hoffman moderated by the CBC’s Brent Bambury.  The event was “first come, first served” and restricted to 500 tickets so we decided to be early.  Doors opened at 1815 for a 1830 talk so the plan was to meet the lemur at the opera house at 1700, grab a bite to eat and then join the line-up.  I got there early as I was through at work and preferred to sit in the sunshine at the Four Seasons Centre rather than at my desk so I got there around 1615.  There was already a line up!  By the time the lemur showed up just before 1700 there was quite a line up so we changed plan and the lemur went off to fetch burritos to eat in the line.  Just as well as they ended up turning people away. 

Eisenstein – Sketch: Constance Hoffman

The talk was reasonably interesting though maybe people whose medium f expression is primarily visual aren’t the best at explaining either their concept or their process in words.  We learned that the production was “Freudian” and “dark” (surprise!) and dealt with the disintegration of society either side of the first world war.  Dr Falke is Rosalinde’s psychiatrist and is clearly orchestrating his revenge for Eisenstein’s earlier prank.  I suppose WW1 is still an event and a theme that still resonates with most opera goers but I wonder whether it really speaks to a younger audience.  We were also told that the production was “naughty”; though more implicit than explicit.  The audience questions were strangely obsessed with the cost of the production and even the irrepressible Bambury couldn’t get much life out of them.  Still, it was a useful set up for the actual performance to come.

Rosalinde – Sketch: Constance Hoffman

We had very decent seats in Ring 3 for the actual performance.  We only got to see Act 1 and the following orchestra fine tuning but it was enough to get a decent idea of the production.  It is interesting.  Falke is clearly the puppet master.  He hypnotises and wakes Rosalinde at will. All the Act 1 action takes place in her bedroom.  Characters from the party in Act 2 invade Act 1 via Rosalinde and Gabriel’s dreams and imagination.  There’s fairly heavy use of the bat (vampire) as symbol of repressed sexuality.  A giant version of Gabriel’s “chick magnet” pocket watch swings hypnotically high above the stage.  For all the symbolism it’s fast paced and very funny, perhaps helped by rather ruthless cutting of the spoken dialogue.  It certainly left me very much wanting to see the rest of the show.  I’m especially curious to see what Alden does with Act3 and the whole Frosch schtick.  Rumour suggests something rather unusual.

Adele – Sketch: Constance Hoffman

It’s clearly unfair to critique rehearsal performances when people are mrking much of the time but what we saw was promising.  Tamara Wilson pulled the stops out just enough to suggest she can and probably will blow the roof off in the Csardas.  Michael Schade’s acting left me eager to see what he could do with Act 2 and David Pomeroy as Alfred sang very prettily.  Mireille Asselin, on her first run though as Adele (she’s alternating with Ambur Braid) seemed very assured in the coloratura highjinks on her first entry and Peter Barrett made a suitable sinister Falke/Freud.  I thought the orchestra was playing pretty well too but Johannes Debus obviously felt they could do better.  His interact rehearsing was extremely meticulous and very interesting to watch even if too many members of the audience thought that this was a good opportunity to chatter or leave noisily.  All in all very promising and with two more run throughs before the opening next Thursday it can only get better.

Female chorus member – Sketch: Constance Hoffman

Bottom line, I think this is going to be a hot show and I’m really looking forward to seeing it on October 12th (if I hold out and don’t get a cheap ticket for an earlier show).  Toronto peeps have the choice of eleven shows between October 4th and November 3rd.  Londoners will have to wait a little longer but it is a co-production with ENO so you’ll see it eventually.  If you want more information the official social media blurb is here.

3 thoughts on “Sneak preview of Die Fledermaus

  1. Ooh, fin-de-siècle and post-WWI anxieties, my favorite! This sounds like a really interesting way of (re)focusing Fledermaus’s issues of sexuality, class, etc. Also, I should think that anyone who’s ever been given Owen and Sassoon (most Anglophone schoolchildren?) has at least SOME sense of the trauma of the First World War.

  2. Pingback: COC’s Fledermaus succeeds on several levels | operaramblings

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