Volume 92, Issue 83
Wednesday, March 5, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Opera workshop lets fat lady run loose in Talbot theatre
© Randy Quan/Gazette
By Laszlo Benak
Mention the word opera to most students and instant apprehension will surely set in. Immediately the student fears the cost, the incomprehension of the story line and ultimately the potential for boredom.
However Die Fledermaus, an operetta (containing considerable amounts of spoken dialogue along with singing and music), succeeds in debunking all of the myths and preconceptions of similar school productions.
The UWO Opera Workshop and UWO Chamber Orchestra perform Johann Strauss' operetta in the Talbot theatre until Sunday. Produced and directed by Theodore Baerg (also a theatre actor who has immense experience performing the operetta's lead man Gabriel von Eisenstein all over the world), Die Fledermaus is a traditional comedy set in late 19th century Vienna.
Originally written by Carl Haffner and Richard Genee, the production revolves around a high class married couple, Rosalinda and Gabriel, who undergo numerous marriage difficulties. Actually, the main difficulty is Gabriel's insistence on flirting with every beautiful women he meets. On top of Gabriel's womanizing, Rosalinda must also endure the advances of an old flame, Alfred. The charade follows countless comical episodes until climaxing towards a truly surprising finale.
In a unique and memorable scene, a fire-eating performer enters the stage to the tribal sounds of drums beating in the background. The appeal of this scene is how the performer cleverly draws the characters, as well as the members of the audience into active participation of his routine. Spinning the flaming torches to a primitive drum beat succeeds in changing the pace of the operetta as well as keeping the audience on the edge of their seats throughout the performance.
Other visual delights include the stunning costumes and the vibrant set pieces. The wardrobes provide audience members with a sense of time and place, while the set and lighting prove effective in creating a lighthearted but specific atmosphere.
Despite translating the story from German into English for the audience's benefit, Baerg succeeds in maintaining the integrity of the original script, while making sure all jokes remain effective. In fact, the audience members must listen closely for some quick and hilarious one-liners which often contain double meanings. One minor deviation Baerg has creatively integrated into the script are modern jokes which make for an even funnier story for contemporary audiences.
Once experienced, it is easy to understand why Baerg's interpretation of Die Fledermaus is not a mediocre school production. Thanks to the talented UWO Opera Workshop students, Baerg's version proves a high calibre and intensely professional production.
Above the beautifully clear music and the clever dialogue, it is the truly sacred talents of the opera students which make this event so exciting. Vocally astonishing and visually stunning, Die Fledermaus proves itself as one of the most important Western music events of the year.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999