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Lyric Opera of Chicago
Time for comedy: Spyres, Skovhus and Banse in Lyric Opera of Chicago's Fledermaus
© Dan Rest 2014
Die Fledermaus arrived at Lyric Opera of Chicago on December 11, just in time for the holidays, and was presented in attractive new giftwrapping — or at least recycled giftwrap, as the well-traveled settings by Wolfram Skalicki and costumes by Thierry Bosquet, borrowed from San Francisco Opera, are new to Chicago, and they are pretty paper indeed.
Several of the singers were also new to the house and added a welcome dollop of Viennese cream to the proceedings. German soprano Juliane Banse, in her American opera (and role) debut as Rosalinde, was initially a trifle squally in the uppermost reaches, but she soon settled in with some impressive chest tones and fluent runs in a satisfying czardas. Daniela Fally, also in her American debut, is an Adele of choice at both Vienna's Staatsoper and Volksoper; here, she easily demonstrated why with the rock-solid top D that capped her characterful "Spiel' ich die Unschuld vom Lande." Austrian baritone Adrian Eröd's timbre occasionally seemed rather pale for Dr. Falke, but his sound is intrinsically quite appealing, and he oozed urbane charm in a nicely idiomatic account of the "Brüderlein" interlude. Bo Skovhus's randy Eisenstein and Andrew Shore's hilarious Frank are both well-known commodities at Lyric and were as much fun as ever. Shore's skillfully detailed comedic business in the prison scene virtually relegated Frosch to second-comedian status. Emily Fons essayed a convincingly masculine Orlofsky and popped out those difficult flicks up to A-flat in "Ich lade gern mir Gäste ein" delightfully. Michael Spyres was altogether charming as Alfred, and his delivery of the role's requisite snatches of phrases from the Italian Romantic repertoire was aural pleasure in itself. The cast was completed by David Cangelosi's rhythmically stuttering Blind, Julie Anne Miller's comely Ida and a very funny Ivan from Will Liverman.
Lyric's previous Fledermaus outing, in 2006 was distinguished by a subtly sophisticated approach to the work's notoriously tricky dramaturgy; the current revival, under director E. Loren Meeker, reverted somewhat to the bad old days of eye-popping slapstick and forced fizz, but the audience was clearly enraptured. All was wisely performed in the original German (though the Act III titles revealed some decidedly contemporary references that actor Fred A. Wellisch, as Frosch, made a roguish delight of), and the pacing throughout was brisk and brought laughs aplenty. The late Skalicki's designs are lovely, especially in Act II, which revealed a plethora of party guests all cleverly painted into the surrounding walls — a stunning example of set rendering that has all but become a lost art. The ballet by choreographer Daniel Pelzig was excellent; it replaced the original set of character dances with several interpolated Strauss family favorites, including the Spanischer Marsch and the Jokey Polka.
Conductor Ward Stare made a piquantly effervescent concoction of Strauss's exquisite score. Michael Black's chorus layered on the schmaltz with some notably appealing textures in the "Du, Du" ensemble. And if the quickly depleted bottles seen on the bars during intermission were any indication, the champagne was selling unusually well.
MARK THOMAS KETTERSON
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