Opera review: Die Fledermaus - English National Opera, London Coliseum



Die Fledermaus in jackboots? Is it no longer possible for a piece referring to Germany or Austria to be staged in this country without them? If it is, someone forgot to tell Christopher Alden. Johann Strauss's operetta is a work that bubbles over with champagne-sluiced melody and humour. Alden shoehorns it into the 1930s and brings us the decline and fall of Vienna. I'd never imagined that Die Fledermaus could leave you feeling depressed.

This co-production with the Canadian Opera Company has already been seen, and slated, in Toronto. All the clichés pile in - psychoanalysis, the interpretation of dreams, black and white cinema, decadence, Dracula (well, he is a bat) and just when you think: "at least there are no Nazis..." ...oh dear. Yet there is little of the Viennese heart for which the music cries out; the lifeblood has been sucked out of it.

What fun remains comes from the translators - Daniel Dooner and Stephen Lawless, whose snarky text raised the evening's few smiles - and the costume designer, Constance Hoffman, who has produced deliciously detailed creations for the fancy-dress party.

Otherwise, how heavy-handed this lightest of confections has become. Messages about time running out virtually whack the audience on the head, along with the descent into what the jailer, Frosch – usually a comedy turn, but here a camp fascist prone to seizures – obsessively describes as "an entertaining little prison". And if tired cross-dressing jokes, men in silk undershorts and the presence of a bed on stage are meant to be sexy and sophisticated, that's a matter of opinion.

A really fine performance could have redeemed it. But the pace of the dialogue sagged, and while the conducting of Eun Sun Kim, making her ENO debut, was bright and efficient, Viennese style needs real "Schwung": malleable, dug-in waltz rhythms, flexible rubato and room to breathe, among other things. Some good singing from Jennifer Holloway as Prince Orlofsky – the character a crazed Russian oligarch, more 2013 than 1933 – and Edgaras Montvidas as Alfred, the tenor Rosalinde can’t resist. Tom Randle was a charismatic Eisenstein, when he had a chance. Everyone tried their best, notably Rhian Lois's Adele, Andrew Shore's Frank and Richard Burkhard's Dr Falke. Julia Sporsén - who dazzled in Julietta by Martinu last year – had to climb a revolving staircase while singing her Czardas. The chorus sounded uncharacteristically tentative. A batty evening, in the wrong way.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk