It is the glory and curse of Die Fledermaus that every note is absolutely and instantly familiar; the overture has soundtracked enough film, cartoon and television that it risks being dull with familiarity. Yet, as the popular refrains begin their delicate, playful tracery they seem suddenly fresh, bright and above all hilarious; this is a production that embraces the popular, the ridiculous, the farcical.
The curtains go up on a translucent, gold, Venetian lace front cloth, festooned with huge tassels, half revealing, half concealing an outrageous chocolate box set in wedding cake colours. Opera and Ballet International and Ellen Kent's Die Fledermaus has brought the glitz and glory of Strauss's operetta to original and unconventional life. The performance (part sung, part spoken) is delivered in deliciously heavily-accented English, with all the charm of translation, by a talented international cast.
The comedy is stumbling drunk, fuelled by champagne and the constant and inconsequential inebriation of everyone. The chorus are lanky boys in tail-coats and music box ballerinas with dresses in every shade of white froth. Prince Orlovsky, here a jejune, vodka-swilling oligarch flaunting his colour-changing LED champagne fountains, is played up to the nines by a glistening Liza Kadelnik. Maria Tonina makes a shockingly cheeky Adele, and a magnificently unconvincing Baroness, red dressed, imperiously wiggling her golden headdress. Alyona Kistenova is charmingly flirtacious as Rosalinde, but as the mysterious Countess she positively glows, her dress a decadent black explosion of net and tassels; the bat a pretty motif on her fan.
The programme's promise of spectacular, lavish and traditional is amply delivered; but with a bold, bright twist of modernity thrown into the mix. Look out for spectacular cameos from (in no particular order) a stuffed red grouse, a fully articulated human skeleton and BBC Oxford's Bill Heine (singing).