The Santa Barbara Grand Opera's production of Johann Strauss, Jr's "Die Fledermaus" is delightfully effervescent, with elegant sets, lavish period costumes, and a top notch cast from top to bottom. This is about Viennese aristocracy in the early 19th century, and this production immerses us in that from the beginning. Eisenstein's living room has a marble staircase rising to the back with big cutglass windows enclosed in beautifully detailed decorative frames. There are two tall potted palm plants. Confusion and deception reign from the very beginning, with Alfredo's offstage serenade to Rosalinda, and her maid Adele trying to get the night off to go to Prince Orlofsky's party. Eisenstein enters with his lawyer Blind, who has just gotten his five day jail sentence turned into eight days. After trading insults he chases the scruffy, stuttering Blind out, brandishing a chair at him. Eisenstein does a little soft shoe as he flirts with Adele, before getting his evening dress to head off to jail. He explains that this is his first contact with the underworld, and he wants to make a success of it. Falke has convinced him to go to jail tomorrow, and to Orlofsky's party tonight. Alfredo, meanwhile fills in with Rosalinda, as Frank, the warden, comes to take him off to jail, thinking him to be Eisenstein. Donald Sherill is a hulking Frank with a shaved head, goatee and rolling bas even when he talks.
In Orlofsky's palace Adele is posing as an actress, in one of Rosalinda's dresses. Eisenstein almost chokes when he sees her. He says she looks like a chambermaid. Adele says she has never been so insulted, and abruptly turns away and indignantly fans herself, like a cat who has just fallen off a chair. When Rosalinda shows up disguised as the Hungarian Countess, she's appalled by Adele in her dress, and her husband with dancing girls, before he leaves them to flirt with her. When he dangles the watch, it's accompanied by a light percussion chime from the orchestra, in a very nice touch. Rosemary Wagner-Scott is a scintillating Rosalinda as she sings and dances her czardaz to prove her Hungarian nationality.
The entertainment at this party is provided by The State Street Ballet. We have a beautiful pas de Deux to Lehar's "Gold and Silver Waltz" choreographed by Gary McKenzie. It's smooth and graceful with lyrical jumps and twirls. Rodney Gustafson choreographs Strauss' "Thunder and Lightning Polka." This one is an athletic with four girls and two guys. We have a lot of leaps and kicks, with an incredible display by Vladimir Lagerev. In one sequence he bends over backwards with his hands and feet touching the floor, and spins around the stage like a top. At the end, he leans forward in the same position, about two inches off the floor and simply flies around the stage! In this production the entertainments actually leave you excited and wanting more, instead of the usual mind-numbing assortment of cameos, however good, that drone on forever.
In the final act, Frosch
is passed out on the floor of the jail, while Alfredo
sings from his cell. Alfredo sings his drinking
song, Frosch hits the front of the desk, a door opens, he pulls out
a bottle and drinks
to a couple of
Me's. Frank comes in dead drunk, lights a cigar, leans back to read his paper, it falls over his cigar, which burns through it while the newspaper falls over his face. Tony Miratti's Frosch is tremendous as the stumbling, drunken jailer, and everybody is reconciled at the end.
Shannon Coulter is an infectious Adele. She is flirtatious and coy, impetuous and sassy, as she moves fluidly from chamber maid, to actress, to strutting like a Queen at the end, when she renounces her position with the Eisensteins to pursue her acting dream. In addition to her lyricism and trills, she captures you with a gesture or a glance as she radiates life and enthusiasm. Rosemary Wagner-Scott is a sweet voiced Rosalinda who is fiery and petulant, but melts like butter for Alfredo. Gabriel Reoyo-Pazos is a supremely smooth and lyrical Alfredo. He's strong and clear voiced, and surprisingly dapper. Tatyana Rashkovsky's Orlofsky is rich and melodic. She's aloof and bored, but flamboyantly so. Daniel Ebbers is a strong and humorous Eisenstein, with Andrew Eisenmann as a steady Dr. Falke. Alan August is the outrageously bumbling attorney Blind. Valery Ryvkin conducts this delicious production of "Die Fledermaus" by The Santa Barbara Grand Opera.