‘Die Fledermaus’ soars at Lyric Opera
By WYNNE DELACOMA For Sun-Times Media December 11, 2013 11:14AM
Bo Skovhus stars as Eisenstein and Juliane Banse portrays Rosalinde in Lyric Opera’s new-to-Chicago production of “Die Fledermaus.” | Photo BY Dan Rest
Lyric Opera of
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13, 16, 18, 21 and Jan. 18; 2 p.m. Jan. 10, 12 and 15.
Where: Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker
Info: (312) 827-5600;
Updated: December 16, 2013 9:14AM
Lyric Opera has whipped up a perfect holiday confection for opera lovers in “Die Fledermaus (The Bat)” by Johann Strauss Jr., which opened Tuesday night at the Civic Opera House. This new-to-Chicago production is as fizzy as fine champagne and as pretty as a pop-up Victorian Christmas card.
“Fledermaus” is one of operetta’s most durable hit shows and it contains some of Strauss the younger’s most infectious tunes. But in the wrong hands, this 140-year-old comic tale of duplicitous spouses, their ambitious parlor maid and random eccentrics can fall flatter than an overcooked souffle. It isn’t easy to keep the energy high and American audiences engaged for three-hours-plus of German-language song and dance and snappy patter.
But aided by a superb cast and production team, stage director E. Loren Meeker and conductor Ward Stare managed that difficult feat. Making her Lyric debut with this production from the San Francisco Opera, Meeker filled the stage with non-stop action that generally avoided contrived shtick. Wolfram Skalicki’s sets and Thierry Bosquet’s costumes were delicately charming fantasies. The cut-away view of the Eisenstein’s two-story apartment took us inside a 19th century dollhouse, complete with a curving staircase and fanciful plaster work. Prince Orlofsky’s grand ballroom was a vast space full of soaring arches and shadowy walls painted to resemble crowded theater boxes.
Lyric’s cast inhabited this fantasy world with merry elan. All the principals looked their parts — the tall, handsome Danish baritone Bo Skovhus as the philandering Eisenstein and the slim, graceful German soprano Juliane Banse as Rosalinde, his not-entirely-faithful young wife. Making her American debut was Austrian soprano Daniela Fally, an effervescent bundle of blond curls and prodigious ruffles as Adele, the Eisenstein’s irrepressible parlor maid.
“Fledermaus” is full of catchy tunes, easy to hum but some of them fiendishly difficult to sing. Banse and Fally tossed off their frequent coloratura flights with easy nonchalance. Banse’s big, powerful soprano sounded lush in her Hungarian-inflected Act II aria, and Fally’s virtuoso vocal runs cut the air — and her unfortunate adversaries — like a fast-moving, silvery scalpel.
Eisenstein is one of Skovhus’ signature roles, and his portrayal was a wonderful blend of self-regard and comic confusion. Listening to his satiny baritone, we almost believed that he might be true to his lovely Rosalinda. But the persistent twinkle in his eye suggested otherwise.
American tenor Michael Spyres brought just the right level of pomposity and ringing Italianate tone to Alfred, Rosalinde’s would-be lover. Austrian baritone Adrian Erod cut an elegant figure as Dr. Falke, wary of eye as he engineered his elaborate revenge for Eisenstein’s earlier practical joke. Mezzo-soprano Emily Fons, a standout alumna of Lyric’s training program, was commanding as Orlofsky, the bored Russian millionaire looking for some amusement.
The supporting cast offered colorful portraits full of comic detail, from David Cangelosi’s infuriated lawyer, Dr. Blind, to Andrew Shore’s impetuous prison warden, Frank. High-powered dancers and energetic chorus rounded out the evening.
The weather outside may be frightful, but inside the Civic Opera House, “Die Fledermaus” couldn’t be more delightful.