Johann Strauss, Jr.'s operetta DIE FLEDERMAUS has been delighting audiences for over 125 years. What accounts for such perennial popularity? Craft is part of the answer.
Strauss's music never grows dull, and the plot is hinged to unfold ingeniously and happily. A husband and wife become aware of each other's infidelity but, far from creating doom, the two discoveries cancel each other out and life again becomes the subject of a charming march or waltz.
Such universal themes as betrayal, deception and revenge, treated with laughter, have also contributed to the work's longevity. These universals are traditionally given pungency by salting the dialogue with jibes at recent politics and culture.
The test of any performance of this show is how well it approaches the craft and cleverness of Strauss himself. Toronto Operetta Theatre's FLEDERMAUS , now at the Jane Mallett Theatre, went a respectable distance toward meeting that goal on Saturday. TOT's general director Guillermo Silva-Marin was principally responsible for this. He directed, created the set, and wrote the updated gags and lyrics.
He also performed the part of the jailer, Frosch, with near manic energy. The show itself was not so manic, but nevertheless kept up a quick, fluid pace.
Tenor Ross Neill and soprano Laura Whalen played the principal couple, Gabriel Eisenstein and his wife Rosalinda. Neill acted his part very well but was in voice difficulty throughout the evening though he nobly soldiered on to the end. Whalen generally could have pushed her character a little further over the top to match the general tone of the production, but she sang exceptionally well and came through magnificently in Rosalinda's big party piece, the Hungarian czardas.
Baritone Alexander Dobson was in fine voice as Dr. Falke, the "fledermaus" (bat) himself who masterminds the sequence of deceptions that constitute the show's storyline.
Soprano Elizabeth Beeler gave a wonderfully stylized and funny performance as the Eisensteins' chambermaid Adele. And Keith Savage was art deco in movement as the languid Count Orlovsky. Both sang well.
But the great scene stealer of the evening was Mark DuBois as the operatic tenor who woos Rosalinda. With his phony Italian accent and sobbing renditions of Rosalinda's favourite arias, he embodied ego in song and always raised the energy on stage with his ebullience. His hilarious scene teaching Silva-Marin to sing poked raucous fun at all the bel canto clichés ever spouted to novice voice students.
The 13-piece orchestra played well under conductor Derek Bate. The show's true workhorses, they made everything else possible with their discreet and sure footed support.
A treat for light opera lovers, DIE FLEDERMAUS runs through May 2.