Opera review: Die Fledermaus - English National Opera, London Coliseum
Tuesday 01 October 2013
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.
Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boymusic
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 2 Martha Stewart accuses Snoop Dogg of 'smoking for four hours' during Justin Bieber Roast
- 3 I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts
- 4 Google April Fools': company unveils backwards search engine and huggable digital assistant
- 5 April Fools' Day 2015: The best hoax news stories from around the internet
Gaza Banksy mural sold to 'conman' for just $175
Tidal launch: The most pretentious lines from Alicia Keys' valedictory speech
Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
Top Gear live to go ahead: Jeremy Clarkson to join Richard Hammond and James May... just don't call it Top Gear
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans