The Vancouver Opera presented a conventional and easygoing rendition of J. Strauss’ operetta Die Fledermaus (The Bat). The cast, ably supported by VO’s Music Director Jonathan Darlington, featured the soprano Joyce El-Khoury in the role of Rosalinde and the tenor Roger Honeywell as Gabriel von Eisenstein, her husband. An appearance by local Shakespearean impresario Christopher Gaze as the jailer was anticipated as part of the attraction.
Every night is a party night in Vienna and nothing is more suitable for the ludicrous plot of an operetta than a Viennese high society binge. Worries aside, dressed up, tipsy and frisky, misunderstandings of any kind can take place. When Die Fledermaus was performed for the first time in Vienna, in 1873, the wealthy public attending to the premiere was in a darker mood, struggling with a disastrous economic and social situation. Nevertheless, the magic in the Strauss melodies allowed those who attended that performance to briefly forget their troubles. In the same way, Vancouver opera lovers became invitees to this party, fully enjoying a dramatic comedy, principally because of the music.
As to the singers, the female roles were better cast than their male counterparts. The Vancouver début of Joyce El-Khoury did not disappoint. Ms. El-Khoury raised the overall vocal quality of the production with her exuberant lines and fine voicings. She seems ready to tackle more challenging roles for a lyric soprano. Hopefully Vancouver opera-goers will have a chance to see that at some future date. Playing the part of Adele, her chambermaid, the Canadian soprano Suzanne Rigden received kudos from the audience for her effervescent approach and her strong and confident singing of the most striking coloratura parts.
The two tenors, Roger Honeywell and David Pomeroy, achieved a reasonable degree of success. Both Eisenstein’s and Alfredo’s roles were well defined and dramatically effective. However, Strauss asks for a stronger voice than Mr. Honeywell was able to deliver and that reduced the impact of his role. He did deliver a balanced performance, however, and his comedic efforts were successful. Mr. Pomeroy´s intonation after certain spoken parts, as well as some open sounds in the highest part of his range led us to wonder whether he was having some difficulties in his role. While he was able to present the humorous and burlesque caricature of the Italian lover Alfredo, his performance could well have disappointed some discriminating opera fans.
The performance by Christopher Gaze, Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Festival Bard on the Beach, was rather disruptive to the flow of the operetta. His performance of the dipsomaniac Frosch, the jailer, though comical and committed, appeared excessive. He seemed to be acting as a main character in an altogether different production.
The conducting of the maestro Jonathan Darlington was bright and driven, with an especially fresh and vivacious overture. In contrast, the stage direction of Nancy Hermiston, Head of the Voice and Opera Division at UBC, looked too conventional and conservative.
The party ended with a standing ovation, proving that the main objective of this genial operetta, celebrating the joy of living beyond any other concerns, was evidently accomplished.
Carlos Javier López @CarlosJavierLS
Die Fledermaus is onstage for only four performances from Saturday, February 28 to Sunday, March 8, 2015. All performances at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, corner of Georgia and Hamilton Streets, Vancouver, B.C. More info here