Arts & Culture

Revelry, deception and arias intoxicate opera audience

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 21, 2011

Correction appended.

“Die Fledermaus” or “The Revenge of the Bat,” Brown Opera Production’s spring show directed by Audrey Chait ’11, is a whimsical, fantastical take on Johann Strauss II’s operetta about a wild night of revelry.  

The opera begins with the chambermaid Adele (Rebecca Lichtin ’14) singing  about a ball she longs to attend. She feigns her aunt is sick so she can get the night off. Meanwhile, Dr. Falke (Zal Shroff ’14) tries to convince Gabriel von Eisenstein (Nathan Margolin ’11) to attend a party before he spends eight days in jail for a petty crime.  He promises him “beautiful food, women and wine” — four words that perfectly encapsulate the opera itself.

As Dr. Falke and Eisenstein escape to the ball, Alfredo (Andrew Wong ’11) — who pines for Eisenstein’s wife Rosalinde (Juliana Friend ’11) — comes to visit her just as the prison director (Phil Arevalo ’11) enters. Alfredo pretends to be Eisenstein and is taken to jail in his place. At the ball, Adele, Rosalinde, Eisenstein, the prison director and a prince (Ivy Alphonse-Leja ’14) all encounter each other in disguise as Dr. Falke stirs up confusion in revenge for a prank Eisenstein played on him. A night of intoxication, infidelity and comic exchange ensues.

Because the story itself was “trite,” Chait said she decided to “play up the fantastical aspect” and “frame the second act as fantasy.”

There are also anachronistic elements in the opera — in one scene when Eisenstein reveals that Adele has been lying about her aunt being sick, she mutters “shit” under her breath with a guilty smile.

“It’s not contemporary, but removed from historical context,” Chait said.

The stage opens displaying large red sofas, several lamps in the background and a table with a bottle of whisky and two glasses. But the most striking element of the set is the large clock, which initially displays eight o’clock. Its hands are then moved around by the actors to show the progression of time at the party. At the end of the night, several numbers are missing, stripped away by the drunken guests. Colorful costumes add to the mirth of the party scene.

Shroff, Lichtin and Friend sang with complete control, but the voices of other actors were sometimes lost as a result. The song sung by Lichtin, Friend and Margolin at the end of Act One is masterfully performed as Friend’s Rosalinde feigns sorrow at the departure of Margolin’s Eisenstein but is secretly rejoicing. She wins over the audience with her charm, declaring “two can play this game tonight” when she sees the flirtatious ways of her husband in Act Two. Throughout the show, the actors project the words of the songs to the audience,  but the timing is sometimes off.

The actors also have a strong stage presence. In one scene, Dr. Falke stands calmly to the side, holding his cane and glass of champagne as the guests become increasingly intoxicated. At the end of Act Two, he stands triumphantly in the center of the stage, under the spotlight and in front of the clock.

The orchestra, directed by Jacob Klapholz ’13, seamlessly moves from fast-paced whimsical songs to slower, more emotional tunes.

While Act Three is a little dull and slow-paced compared to the two preceding acts, the actors still give committed performances.

Chait said the opera was “big and fun” — very different from the production she directed last year, “The Turn of the Screw” by Benjamin Britten.  

“Audrey is a really good director. She nourished us to find our niche,” Alphonse-Leja said.

“I’d never been to an opera before and I was impressed and educated,” said Zintis Inde ’12.

Tom Lutken ’14 summed up the power of “Die Fledermaus” —”Everyone looked like they were having such a good time.” The actors brought energy and enthusiasm to the stage as if it were indeed a dance floor.

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the prison director as Nathan Weinberger ’13. In fact, the prison director was played by Phil Arevalo ’11. The Herald regrets the error.