[Met Performance] CID:286720
New Production
Die Fledermaus {119} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/4/1986.

(Debut: David Birkmeyer)

Metropolitan Opera House
December 4, 1986
New Production

Joh. Strauss Jr.-Haffner/R. Genťe

Rosalinde...............Kiri Te Kanawa
Eisenstein..............HŚkan HagegŚrd
Adele...................Judith Blegen
Alfred..................David Rendall
Prince Orlofsky.........Tatiana Troyanos
Dr. Falke...............Michael Devlin
Dr. Blind...............Anthony Laciura
Frank...................Franz Mazura
Ida.....................Victoria Brasser
Frosch..................Otto Schenk
Ivan....................Ari Roussimoff

Conductor...............Jeffrey Tate

Production..............Otto Schenk
Set designer............GŁnther Schneider-Siemssen
Costume designer........Peter J. Hall
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler
Choreographer...........David Birkmeyer [Debut]

Original dialogue adapted for this production by Otto Schenk and translated into English by Marcel Prawy

Die Fledermaus received thirteen performances this season.

Production a gift of Mrs. Donald D. Harrington

Review of Peter Wynne in The Record

A Big-Money and Big-Name Extravaganza

When the Metropolitan Opera decides to get fancy, no one's going to get fancier. Take the company's new "Die Fledermaus," which opened at a gala performance last night.

The setting for the first act was posh, a parlor with 30-foot ceiling and a stairway rising almost that far, carpets and curtains and Biedermeier furnishings, french doors, a bird cage - all the accouterments of comfortable merchant-class life in fin-de-siecle Vienna

But that setting paled in memory when the Act II curtain rose on Prince Orlovsky's palace and what looked like the anteroom of his grand salon.
Across the back of the stage were arched doorways with frosted glass; real fountains tinkled softly; a huge fabric-covered pouf took center stage. And as splendid as all that was, it paled, too, when that wall of glass -- the entire stage, it seemed - began to revolve and revealed the prince's conservatory-dining room, a sumptuous glass fantasy out of some grand hotel of the Belle Epoch.

More than that, the costumes, the singers, the voices, and the orchestra under the spirited baton of Jeffrey Tate were every bit as splendid as the architecture onstage. Many operettas would get lost if produced so extravagantly, but Johann Strauss's masterpiece seems to stand up to all the theatrical whipped cream and chocolate one cares to heap upon it.

Until last night, "Fledermaus" had not been seen or heard at the Met since the '66-'67 season, when it was sung in English in the version prepared for the company in '50 by Garson Kanin and Howard Dietz. This time around, the Met has decided to do the piece with the musical numbers in the original German and the dialogue in English.

Stage director Otto Schenk has adapted the dialogue, mostly to add narrative details from the musical numbers. If there are aesthetic gains in having those numbers in German, they're likely minimal, except for the small minority that's fluent in German; for most opera-goers, the drop in comprehension probably brings a net loss. But why dwell on doubts when so much about the production is so wonderful?

Soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, for example is arguably the finest Rosalinda in opera today. Her voice is as rich and sweet as sacher torte; she's beautifully statuesque, moves with grace, and has an unerring sense of comedy. Tenor David Rendall is an elegant, insouciant Alfred in a production that ignores the tradition of making him a has-been. The cast is handsome physically and vocally, throughout.

Hakan Hagegard is a marvelous Gabriel Eisenstein, singing with absolute ease a role that for most baritones lies high in the voice Bass Franz Manna, who is so often cast as a villain, gets to do the jolly prison warden, Frank, and acquits himself handily. Michael Devlin is an unusually strong-voiced and limber Dr. Falk and Anthony Laciura an amusing Dr. Blind - both baritone roles.

The two other female stars of the production are lyric soprano Judith Blegen as the maid, Adele, and mezzo Tatiana Troyanos as the terminally bored Russian prince. Blegen played her part pertly but was pushing her voice and sounding a bit tired. Troyanos sang well and acted beautifully, making Orlovsky more rounded and real than has any other singer in or near New York in recent memory.

This is a production that makes unusually heavy physical demands on the soloists. The Vienna-born Schenk, who also plays the part of the drunken jailer, Frosch, clearly set out to stage the operetta as if he were back home at the Wiener Volksoper. He expected and got those Met soloists to dance and cavort like a bunch of Broadway choristers - with that kind of enthusiasm, at least - and what the singers lacked in terpsichorean polish only made the business seem more authentic.

Schenk has things get positively rowdy at Orlovsky's bash. cutting the tacky divertissement Strauss wrote for the scene. substituting the composer's lightning-fast "Denner end Blitzen" polka. and sending the cast careening around the stage. It's great fun, and those who can't make it to the Met don't have to miss it, the production will be shown live on PBS, starting at 8 p. m. New Year's Eve.

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