Opera, as it’s often publicly conceived, is supposed to be epic, bombastic and tragic. One of the first images that comes to mind is of the Wagnerian Viking soprano who shatters a glass with her piercing high notes.
Operettas, or “light operas,” are a nice lighthearted antidote to the perceived stuffy self-seriousness of opera. Johann Strauss II, perhaps best known for his instrumental dances such as the “Blue Danube Waltz,” produced many classic operettas, “Die Fledermaus” chief among them.
German for “The Bat,” “Die Fledermaus” is a comedic farce that has more in common with “Some Like It Hot” or “The Importance of Being Earnest” than the weighty mythos of some Teutonic operas. With a heavy emphasis on drunken debauchery, extravagant parties and mistaken identities, “Die Fledermaus” is ideal for the college set.
Whether as an introduction to the opera or a rollicking good time at the theater, Appalachian Opera Theatre’s production of “Die Fledermaus” on Thursday and Friday was great, accessible fun.
By performing an English translation and dropping numerous references to Boone college life in the dialogue, the cast of “Die Fledermaus” brought Strauss’ exaggerated vision to life.
The show’s premise, at least in Appalachian’s interpretation, involved an elaborate revenge plot on the selfish central figure of Eisenstein, who once left his friend Dr. Falke drunk in a bat costume by the Yosef statue, only to awaken to the laughs and jeers of the community in the morning.
The transposition of the story to Boone was a silly conceit that nonetheless left the playfulness of the operetta intact. Backed by a sprightly, nimble version of the score on two pianos, meticulously arranged by accompanist Aaron Ames, the cast belted out drinking tunes and technically challenging patter songs.
This reviewer was only able to catch the Thursday performance, but there was nary a weak link in the cast. Senior voice performance majors AJ McCurry and Elizabeth Chapa shone as Eisenstein and his wife Rosalinda, managing to be charming and despicable while singing challenging runs and delicate melodies.
Graduate student Jacob Cook commanded the stage as Dr. Falke, portraying the character as equal parts whimsical and sinister in a pitch-perfect bat costume. Sophomore voice performance major Nicole Barone stole the show as Eisenstein’s maid Adele, ostensibly the operetta’s protagonist. Beginning as a meek, sympathetic stand-in for the audience, Barone gradually took charge in the extended party sequence as a fiercely independent character and strong singer.
Despite the performance’s magnetic leads, “Die Fledermaus” was perhaps most carried by smaller moments, notably music faculty member James Stokes’ virtuoso trumpet solo placed inexplicably in the middle of the show.
Other bit roles, such as Alfred and Frank, as well as the committed ensemble that would take over the leads in Friday’s performance, rounded out the show’s light, witty atmosphere.
Overall, “Die Fledermaus” was certainly a highly entertaining romp akin to classic musical theater with an accessible slant to the local audience and with all the intricacy of Strauss’ beautiful music intact.
REVIEW: COLIN MOORE, Senior A&E Reporter