Friday, 11 March 2011

Die Fledermaus - Die Dress Rehearsal

Photo Clive Barda

To post or not to post that is the question, whether it be nobler to shut one’s trap or make worms meat of a performance meant to be hid from popular eyes is the weighty millstone that drags mine eyes from Venus to Vista*. T'would be fair to report a facsimile or should I bid goodnight to Turner’s companion?

Usually I would avoid reviewing a dress rehearsal, as they are essentially a fine-tuning performance for the production team before the first night. Mind you, I haven't yet been to a dress rehearsal that was nothing less what you would experience on a paid night so I’ll full steam ahead with this belated review of the dress rehearsal of WNO’s Die Fledermaus. (In case you're wondering why I am reviewing the dress rehearsal it's because an old hairdressing injury from my days as Aberaeron's only 24-hour one –manned salon flared up causing me to miss the whole of WNO's Die Fledermaus and Il Trovatore Cardiff runs.)

I'm figuratively holding my hands up and admitting that I wasn't ecstatic at the thought of seeing Die Fledermaus, not out of dislike of operetta (I'm partial to Offenbach) but due to a general antipathy towards the characters, especially Eisenstein. Okay, mainly Eisenstein that smug so-and-so. But pushing my dislikes to one side I headed off to the Armadillo on a Tuesday afternoon...

With John Copley running the show I was expecting, and received, a spirit of the piece production. The direction is clear and uncluttered, aided by handsomely designed sets (Tim Reid) and sumptuous costumes (Deirdre Clancy). This Fledermaus invites you to sit and be entertained, only coming unstuck in the notorious third act where, despite Desmond Barrit’s (Frosch) admirable efforts, Strauss manages to stall his own work with the baffling inclusion of the jailer's sketch. It's a mark of how good a performance Barrit gave that I wasn't squirming in my seat feeling sorry for him.

And the rest of the cast? Nuccia Focile (Rosalinde) appeared to be having a whale of a time playing prima donna to her real life husband’s (Paul Charles Clarke) primo divo Alfred, who never shies away from belting out the catalogue of tenor favourites or certain adverts. Joanne Boag was a creamy voiced Adele demonstrating her comedic skills once more after her turn as Echo in the recent Ariadne. David Stout gave a suave performance as Falke. Warden Frank was played by Alan Opie, his diction clear as a bell and his character playing spot on. Helen Lepalaan made for a bright toned and dashing Orlovsky. But what of Mark Stone as Eisenstein? Would he have me wanting more or less of Fledermaus? The answer is a surprising yes. I still find the character to be irritating but Stone persuaded me to let go of my irritation for the afternoon with his generous performance.

The orchestra, under the direction of Viennese native Thomas Rösner, played marvellously and the chorus, doubling as waltzers, filled the air with a warming rendition of (the admittedly) schmaltzy Bruderlein und Schwesterlein.

In closing this smallest of reviews, and with Fledermaus already hitting the road, the news from the dress rehearsal is/was that WNO's new production is/was three hours of musical fun and enjoyment, shaped marvellously by John Copley and his team, allowing the cast to do what they do so well.

*Okay Windows 7 - but which sounds better?

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