What do you get when you blend champagne, lust and German humour? Why, it’s nothing but fun, fun, fun. Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus (The Bat) debuted in Vienna in 1874 and has not been staged by the Canadian Opera Company since 1991; this new production brings an age old story to life and remains relevant in 2012 where the lesson learned is to blame it on the alcohol – almost, but not quite.
Of course, this comic operetta is not all over-imbibing fluff and merriment; it is actually much more astute in its social commentary. Our story primarily revolves around Eisenstein and Rosalinde who have inner desires and outward appearances.
Guided by the omnipresent swinging pendulum clock, we see the characters wax and wane between what they feel and how they should act. When Die Fledermaus first debuted in 19th century Vienna, Freud’s work was taking prominence and there was increasing interest in exploring sexuality and desire. The vengeful Dr. Falke, the bat himself, may represent Freud himself as he brings people in and out of consciousness with the snap of a finger. He also forces the characters to face their fantasies and own up to their desires.
Beyond the deeper meanings of the work, the performers themselves reach for a deeper performance entirely. An absolute standout is Ambur Braid, a current COC Ensemble Studio member who positively shines in the role of Adele, the maid looking for more in life. We should all look for more from Braid as there is certainly a bright future ahead for her. Her spirited performance brings the energy needed to this sparkling production.
And Die Fledermaus does sparkle with the fantastic costuming and unique pieces for the ensemble, certainly not an easy feat. Everything feels grand with the almost hypnotic swinging pendulum and spiral staircase. However, the grand sparkle does not make up for the whole, as I felt the energy did not fully reach my expectations. I kept waiting for myself to laugh a little more boisterously or sit a little further on the edge of my seat and I never quite got there. While I am slightly less familiar with comedic operas and particularly ones with spoken word, the show had more of the feel of a theatrical musical than a classic opera. And as such, I wanted it to push a little further. In that way, this would be a wonderful introduction to opera for new theatergoers definitely accessible to a playful audience.
Die Fledermaus plays now through November 3, 2012
For tickets visit coc.ca.