Jeff Clarke (the company's artistic director) also took considerable liberties with the libretto: the prison to which Eistenstein is condemned becomes an (equally fearsome) rehab centre; the gown which the maid Adele steals is now Versace, and Count Orloffsky's party has shades of the Rocky Horror Show. Although undoubtedly fresh and unusual, I thought the production walked a thin line between satire and silliness. At times, the pop-culture references felt somewhat forced, the humour a little too broad. Simon Cowell and Amy Winehouse both got a name-check, and Rosalinde and Alfred (or at least their accents) appeared to have stepped off the sets of Neighbours and the (in)famous Cornetto advert, respectively. When the humour succeeded, it did so beautifully, but I thought there were enough dud jokes to balance this out
I cheerfully admit, however, that I cracked up several times, and the audience were kept roaring with laughter. In particular, the scene where the drunken Eisenstein and his erstwhile imprisoner, Falke, propped each other up as they stumbled through the seats, treading on feet, ad-libbing and cheerfully insulting the audience was the highlight of my night- as well as being an ingenious method of covering a protracted scene change. Nevertheless, the adaptation often felt like it was trying too hard; opera is a naturally unrealistic medium, but I felt as though the exploration of the characters and the drama of their story was sacrificed in pursuit of cheap laughs.
Nevertheless, it was hard to resist the rollicking good fun of a production that was clearly not taking itself too seriously, and the music and choreography combined to raise many scenes to the level of “spectacular”.
The performances were superb: not only technically accomplished, but filled with enthusiasm and an infectious sense of fun. It was clear that the cast were loving every moment of the show, and this spirit communicated itself to the audience. It would be impossible to single out any particular performance for especial praise; suffice to say that there wasn’t a single character I felt to be miscast, either dramatically or vocally. The orchestra, stripped down to piano, wind and percussion, were note-perfect, and the cast, conductor and director worked flawlessly to produce some brilliant pieces. Perhaps it’s churlish of me to take issue with a perfectly executed piece of good-humoured spectacle, merely based on a couple of over-eager Mickey Mouse references. Die Fledermaus has always been light operetta, after all.