Die Fledermaus is a great way to introduce people to the world of operetta. It is a joyous confection of a score packed with memorable melodies, infectious dance music and wonderful harmonies. There is no death or despair - it is perfect for any season but works particularly well during the run-up to Christmas.
This production is a real celebration of the score. Under the youthfully energetic baton of James Southall, the evening trips along with real style. He draws out great detail from the orchestra and provides the right support for the principals throughout. Particular praise must go to the woodwind section who play magnificently.
In terms of the singing, there is also much to enjoy. Mark Stone uses his flexible baritone to great effect as Eisenstein. It is one of the most challenging sings in the baritone repertoire encompassing an enormous range (indeed, the role is often taken by tenors due to the higher lying passages) and Stone relishes every moment. Rhian Lois is a delightful Adele - charming, petulant, seductive by turns - she has a crystal clear voice and perfect diction. She has a great future ahead of her.
I first encountered Judith Howard (Rosalinde) when she played Adele in the 1990 Covent Garden production of Fledermaus and her experience with the show shines through. She is fully at home in this sort of 19th century repertoire - no more so than when she rips through the iconic 'Czardas' with enormous panache.
Whilst the musical side of the production is top notch, I am afraid to say that the staging and direction do sometimes let things down. The chorus sang with their usual flair and precision but the choreography and stage placement was frequently amateur at best. Everything felt somewhat under-rehearsed and lacklustre. The same can be said in a number of the principal ensembles where there was a worrying lack of physical precision. There is always a balance to be achieved between the rehearsed and the spontaneous but when it comes to choreography, you should always lean toward the former.
Operatic comedies that are genuinely funny are rare beasts and this is certainly a great example of the genre. The near capacity audience was swept up in the heady score and loved every moment.
A great musical performance but not a perfect production. Still one to cherish though!