About Me

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Split personality. Liking the arts, especially opera, and hockey and Los Toros. I know, I know THAT one is non pc currently. But I can't help it saw some in Spain and got hooked, but good. But on the other hand right now opera and hockey are in the forefront!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Battling with Australian/American production of THE BAT ....

HGO presents a remake of Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, Jr. - seen on Sunday- with English libretto. This frivolous, frothy, oh, so Viennese Operetta emigrated (my guess is by force, by Mme director!) to New York.
Before I delve into the details and the singing, I must owe up being vastly biased.
Viennese born, bred, and fed Opera and Operettas from early on, well, perhaps not with mother's milk, but soon, I love my waltzes. And the societal and political parodies which find such fine and amusing outlets in den Operetten. Heard first via Radio...much later TV.
Even in post WWII Vienna, those frothy lilting sounds were everywhere. Street corners abounded with musicians; playing hurdy-gurdies, violins, flutes; and even vocalists. Yes, they did it to beg for alms, but for a child walking those streets it was musical heaven - my ears  then were much less discriminating ;-)! And from the tales of the years before my birth told me by my elders, music never left Vienna, bombs falling or not! Our wooden furniture bore scars by glass from splintered windows after bomb blasts. For years after, that side of the piece felt like a gigantic emery board.

So having said this, let me proceed to enumerate the pros and cons.

1. I liked the idea using silent movie lead ins and endings (which by the way some of the audience missed, they were in such a rush to get up and get going). I thoroughly enjoyed the updated parodies presented by actor (?) Jason Graae, remembered dimly {due to advanced age ;-) no doubt} as a funny Njegus in The Merry Widow (also in English). I am afraid some of the audience will have missed the hint to Peter Grimes (in a previous HGO production Peter Grimes was sung by Anthony Dean Griffey - now in this luxury cast singing Alfredo). 

2. The IMO outstanding performances of the day were Wendy Bryn Harmer as Rosalinde - sung with a beauty that, almost in a Viennese way, charmed;
and the athletic, debonair Liam Bonner as Eisenstein whose ringing baritone seemed created for just this role.

Photo courtesy HGO
3.  Michael Sumuel was an credibly bumbling Frank with his warm baritonal sound. 

4. Samuel Schultz a supercilious Dr. Falke with a crystal clear baritone.

5. The English singing chorus did quite well, but the absence of those Viennese accents, was felt. Alas.

On the other hand Laura Claycomb as Adele, was rather perfect in appearance;
Susan Graham as Prince Orlovski ( was SIR Elton John the inspiration for her make up and manerisms?),
and Anthony Dean Griffey as Alfredo (why make him behave in such slapstick manner?)
was a luxury cast, that did not quite live up to the promises.
The other cameo roles of Ida & Blind  weer sung bu current HGO Studio members Uliana Alexyuk and Reginald Smith, Jr.

Staging and sets were ...welll...  quite New York.
Dresses were amusing and - in the ball scene, finally provided a bit of that froth for which Viennese operettas are known worldwide.

I did feel that Austrian born Conductor Thomas Roesner, while trying his utmost best to infuse that lilting sound into the production, was, perhaps, hampered by the forced emigration of this quintessential Viennese piece to New York. Add the addition of  Astaire/ Rogers dance show (BTW well dances by Broomhead/Richmond), plus the occasional 'modern' music bits and pieces (Release me, let me go, for example), the zing and froth that so defines this Operetta became lost. 
Die Fledermaus has become The Bat, an American Musical...sigh!
Even if as well done, as we expect from any HGO production!!

OK, so maybe I am a bit too critical.
But -  to me, and some other Austrian-born people in attendance (we did commiserate together  during the 2. intermission) the production left us wanting for some Sekt to help overcome our loss; and bolster the felt nostalgia for that Wien I/we all knew with its array of dialects, accents and food which grew out of its multi-nationality over centuries!

And THAT simply does NOT translate into English. Especially when done so by Australians: Director Hume and Designer Roberts.. yes, from that country so often confused with Austria.
No, there are NO kangaroos in Austria - Oesterreich! Ooops, sorry just had to put that in!
Mea culpa! So there!

Just as some great Austrian Wines suffer by transportation to these shores!
And the delectable Viennese desserts, so full of calories but thus so full of unbeatable flavor, suffer when prepared according to the latest 'health" guidelines :-) or rather ;-(.

I am left with homesickness for my Wien, Wien Nur Du Allein, Sollst Stets Die Stadt Meiner Traeume Sein!


Anonymous said...

I liked it. And do not care for your blog.

Anonymous said...

As you will.

I usually do appreciate and even adore HGO productions of all kind, even some that were so over the top, but had great singers.

BUT, a personal opinion is just that - personal. And this was strictly very personal. :-0

Can I gather you are American or even Australian born, right?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am American. And I dislike the attitude that only a Viennaese can like Operettas!

Anonymous said...

I saw this on your blog earlier this morning. I was also disappointed, in fact, preferred the Opera in the Heights production from about three years ago to this one, and I wasn't crazy about it either. I would give Die Fledermaus one more chance if I could see it in Vienna without the amplified spoken lines and in the original language (which I would not understand, but it would be better than the translations I've heard). To be fair, I'm not a fan of singspiels. When I want to see musicals, I go across the street to the Hobby Center, and even then only about once every 3-4 years. I did enjoy the dancing, though; would love to be led through a waltz by L. Bonner. A girl can dream. I did love the silent movie bits, and felt that 1930s Gatsby-style New York was a good fit for the setting. I just don't like all that spoken dialogue, especially in a large house where it is amplified. I think that's what I preferred about Opera in the Heights' production. Maybe some year I'll be in Vienna for a New Year celebration

artandhockey said...

@Anonymous 1: I have NO doubt that anyone other than a Viennese can enjoy operetta's music. All I said, that for a Viennese that certain frothy feeling was lacking in the HGO production.
It is similar to the feeling I get when listening to the Wiener Philharmonik playing Strauss, Lehar, Lanner etc. That certain emotion/sound they show in the string section, that others better equipped than I to judge, admire as well.

@ Anonymous 2. I, too, saw that Fledermaus at the OH! And I agree somewhat with you. The intimate setting and the traditional costuming did purvey a more Viennese feeling. Even though (lol) the scenery was VERY limited due to that postage stamp size stage!
On the other hand, I DID compliment HGO on their handling of the jail scene and THAT spoken dialogue, which did convey the right feeling to me. Go figure! Right. Again a personal opinion/feeling/impression is just THAT personal.
Now having said that, I do thank you all for reading the blog AND be brave enough to comment!
Thank you!

Opera friend said...

Just read this, late! But then I found this "In their early discussions, Mr. Gelb proposed transplanting the action in "Fledermaus" from 1870s Vienna to present-day New York during Fashion Week. "That was a crazy idea," Mr. Sams acknowledged. "We ended up in Vienna in 1899, because there were certain elements in 'Fledermaus'"—the word means bat in German—"that were central to the story and really couldn't be updated, like the fact that you can't walk through the streets dressed as a bat and avoid ridicule, and you can't have dinner with a woman who is not your wife without creating scandal. Farce set in the modern era is hard to play. When the French president no longer conceals his mistress, or a head of state is openly gay, it just doesn't work. So the 19th century is better." in the Wall Street Journal on 12/31. And It seems Mr. Sams agrees with you, in principle.
Happy New Year to you. Looking forward to more of your blog in 2014.

artandhockey said...

Thank you, opera friend, for this thumbs up. I read the whole article, too. On the other hand there was more about this production and it seems it is modernized after all: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304137304579290431180521854