Welsh National Opera – Die Fledermaus (The Bat)
Wales Millennium Centre
Wednesday 7th June 2017
WNO is revelling in the beauty of Vienna. Whilst The setting of the Austrian capital very much puts these works in a certain time period. Whereas Rosenkavlier was soppy and weak on humour, Fledermaus is light and has an easier appeal to it. The Bat is Johann Strauss II most famous stage piece and still holds true today.
Eisenstein is about to go to jail for over a week, after a an incident with a policeman. Through fate, he instead crashes a ball and avoids the prison sentence, as opera singer Alfred is mistaken as Eisenstein and sent to jail instead. Rosalinda, Eisenstein’s wife is also invited to the party and she is asked to go incognito. We discover that its all a practical joke arranged by their friend Falke (whom Eisenstein abounded after another party dressed as a bat), though it certainly feels very malicious. Through disguises, a lot of champagne and some other indulgences, all wrongs are made right. Lessons are learnt and relationships are made stronger because of it.
There are some lovely comic touches in this opulent setting of The Bat. The political jokes are on point and leave no prisoners. Even Trump, Theresa May (this was the night before the election!) and even Russia’s anti gay laws are all slammed here and gets some of the big laughs of the night. The American President is a pig’s head at dinner, May is billed at being at Number 10, by the prison but she might not be there for long and Prince Orlofsky declares how gay he feels, only to correct himself by meaning happy…of course.
The delicious story is balanced with a brilliant cast. Eisenstein is Mark Stone, who seems to get I to loads of mischief and tackles it all in his stride. Alfred by Paul Charles Clarke is a hilarious lampooning of Italian opera singers, since he never shuts up. Adele is the maid, played with great charm and wit by Carleen Ebbs, who’s rendition of the Laughing Aria was a real highpoint in the operetta. Mary-Elizabeth Williams is a sublime Rosalinde. Cardiff audiences may be used to Mary playing really mean baddies, her she lets her hair down and maintains that ecstatic voice she is blessed with and her exclaims of “The rat!” towards her husband quickly become pure comedy gold. Falke, here is Ben McAteer being all sly and quick witted in his scheme. This role could easily be played more dark, but here is the right balance.
Like Rosenkavaler, we get a trouser role in guise of Prince Orlofsky, played here by Emma Carrington. Her Russian accent is clearly a send up and her singing voice pierces through, in the announcements of more food and drink. Thought the supporting cast one character completely stole the show and it’s not even a sung role. Welsh comedian Steve Spiers as Frosch the gaoler has the audience in huge bouts of mirth as he riffed opera in general, the show itself and current affairs. The opening of Act Three was for some time a comedy set and it remained an unexpected delight. Any time he was on was usually a good time.
This operetta is the perfect introduction to those keen to go to the opera for the first time.
Crammed with wit and charm. A real treat!
Rating: 4 stars
WNO continue their Summer season with further performances of Die Fledermaus and Der Rosenkavlier at WMC, then on tour.
Photo Credit: Bill Cooper
Click here for the next Sprout Editorial Group meeting.
It’s free and quick to comment below but we recommend signing up with your email or as a guest to keep usernames Sprouty and anonymous (and never post personal details!).
If you want more info on staying safe online, check out our online safety section.