North WestOperaReview

Ellen Kent’s Die Fledermaus – The Opera House, Manchester

Composer: Johann Strauss

Librettist: Ellen Kent

Director: Ellen Kent

Conductor: Vasyl Vasylenko

Reviewer: Charlotte Broadbent

Ellen Kent has revived her 2006 production of Die Fledermaus which truly deserves the full title of ‘Ellen Kent’s Die Fledermaus‘ as she is invested in every corner of the production. Director, librettist and on this rare occasion, performer it’s easy see why Kent believed this to be one of her most ambitious ventures to date.

The opera begins in the home of Gabriel (Ruslan Zinevych) and Rosalinde (Alyona Kistenyova) Eisenstein. The bubbly chambermaid Adele (Maria Tonina) address the audience and explains that her master has been out hunting, though not successfully. Then Alfred (Ruslan Pacatovici) Rosalinde’s amorous singing teacher arrives and presents Adele with a ticket to Prince Orlofsky’s ball in an attempt to keep her out of the way so that he can has some time alone with Rosalinde. Gabriel Eisentein arrives home and announces that he must spent eight days in prison for hunting on someone else’s land. His friend Dr Falke (Ruslan Pacatovic, who perhaps is strained by playing two roles in one show) arrives and persuades him to postpone prison for a day and join him at the ball. He accepts, but little does he realise that the ball has been orchestrated specifically to exact revenge on him by his friend Dr Falke to get him back for a humiliation he caused him to suffer a couple of years ago.

The style of acting is pantomime-esque, though occasionally this wanders into different territory with actors resorting to dumb show. The performers play with a real spirit of fun and a notion that this is very much tongue in cheek. Tonino specifically was reminiscent of a young Barbara Windsor and occasionally bore the weight of the production almost single handedly as her energy seemed to infuse those around her. This over the top style of performance does make for some fairly two dimensional characterisation and in particular, at the top of act three Vladimir Dragos gave a very indulgent performance as the drunken jailer. The opera runs at three hours with two intervals but this could definitely be reduced if the issue of sluggish pacing were addressed.

Kent has been bold in writing a new libretto and dramatic text and there were some contemporary jokes that brought laughter from the audience and a few localised gags went down well. However, the melisma of this new text is awkwardly placed at times and words are either swallowed up and lost or gabbled in order to make them fit. Thankfully there are English surtitles if one becomes lost, though confusingly there are no surtitles provided for the only two arias in the opera that weren’t sung in English.

Sadly there were numerous occasions where the orchestra (led by Vasyl Vasylenko) and singers were out of tune and the latter occasionally avoided their top notes. Zinevych was consistent as Gabriel and a general sense of relief was felt whenever Iurie Gisca returned to the stage as Frank the prison guard with his warm bass tone.

There were many laughs from the audience and Die Fledermaus is rich in well love music though this production does lack a certain charisma. It could be that this revival has not lived up to it’s original performance.

Reviewed on 18th March

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