Welsh National Opera
Venue: Wales Millenium Centre
Dates: 12th Feb to 5th March
Reviewed by Chelsey Gillard
Opera can seem quite daunting to those not educated in classical music or theatre but this production of Die Fledermaus was completely accessible to even the most ignorant theatre goer (like me). The farcical tale of an elaborate get-back prank was filled with feel good music and laugh out loud comedy from start to finish. In fact, without wanting to cause offense, I would best describe it as a completely camp musical!
The orchestra were simply brilliant, they really pushed through the bouncy, upbeat nature of the score and of course the singers were just as fantastic. Lead soprano Nuccia Focile, made the most of her natural Italian accent to add an exotic element to her role as Rosalinde, she hit every note and really was a powerhouse of energy throughout. Her lover Alfred was portrayed as a stereotypical opera singer to great effect by Paul Charles Clarke, singing extracts from other operas as a comedic plug for future WNO productions.
The genuine and boisterous relationship between Mark Stone’s Eisenstein and David Stout’s Falke was a pleasure to watch and indeed listen to. Both had a real twinkle in their eyes that made all of their misjudged actions completely forgivable and it was easy to see why Rosalinde pardons Eisenstein’s flirtations with others.
The Cinderella like character of Adele added a fairy tale quality to the story. Her solos were entrancingly sung by Joanne Boag who shone out even in chorus numbers. Her pairing with Anira Blaxhall as Ida, her sister, was well thought out with one being rather larger than the other, of course the skinny Ida being the more successful of the two. Adele was also the source of much of the innuendo in the second act, having squeezed into one of her mistress Rosalinde’s dresses that she “borrows” for the ball, she is showing a little more flesh than some of the more modest ladies in attendance.
Until Prince Orlofsky sang I was actually not sure whether the character was being played by a man or a woman. This is great praise to Helen Lepalaan who really inhabited the slightly camp character, her movements and even the way she sat were unquestionably male but her pretty voice finally betrayed her as a woman.
As the production progressed it certainly got better and better. The final act in the jailhouse was utterly hilarious. Prison warden, Frosch (Desmond Barrit), was the only non-singing role, but the lack of song was certainly made up for in humour. This scene really showed WNO’s ability to make an old story modern; using jokes about politicians expenses and laughing at the ‘Go Compare’ and ‘Cornetto’ adverts. The drunk hallucination sequence played out by Alan Opie as Frank was beautifully slapstick and topped all the physical comedy beforehand.
The chorus was stunning throughout, singing with depth and real passion. The group choreography was also well polished and beautiful to watch, especially in the dazzling ball gowns and handsome suits. The only let down was in the small dances where only a few characters were dancing, at times it seemed as though some isn’t quite know what they were doing, which is a shame as the music was intended to dance to.
Overall a beautiful production that I would recommend to all; from the diehard opera fan to the complete newbie.