OPERA NEWS - Die Fledermaus
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J. STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus

spacer Reinprecht, Fally, Kushpler; Lippert, Serafin, Wood, Lohner; Seefestspiele 
Mörbisch orchestra and chorus, Mayrhofer. Production: Lohner. VideoLand VLMD 019, 180 mins., subtitled

Recordings Fledermaus DVD Cover 815

From Austria’s 2012 Mörbisch operetta festival comes this Fledermaus, a big production of dubious value. It was one of the last to be staged under the festival’s former intendant, longtime operetta star Harald Serafin, whom Dagmar Schellenberger succeeded in 2014. The festival takes place in a large lakeside amphitheater with a floating stage; its audiences have been aging and dwindling, and nowadays operetta holds diminishing currency. This staging was considered important and worthy of a national HD telecast, but operetta productions such as this one are not going to win the genre many new admirers.

An aerial shot of the Mörbisch amphitheater at the beginning shows it to be about two-thirds full. The audience seems unresponsive through most of the performance until the entrance of this production’s director, Helmuth Lohner, in Act III as a nose-picking, crotch-scratching Frosch. Though Lohner is a respected show-business veteran, his performance typifies the level of vulgarity that seems to permeate his production, from its overbearing, hoydenish Adele (Daniela Fally) to a pawing, groping orgy that accompanies the sublime “Brüderlein und Schwesterlein.” We’re not talking Calixto Bieito here — the singers remain fully clothed, and the sex is only PG-rated — but in its awkward tameness, this sequence indicates director Lohner’s unwillingness to go too far in either direction. He does, after all, have a graying audience to please. One nice touch stands out: in the end, this Rosalinda forgives her Eisenstein with a kiss followed by a good slap. 

Set and costume designer Amra Buchbinder creates lavish effects on a large stage with no wing or fly space; her solution is to have the sets on rollers, sliding and separating as needed. It makes for especially smooth transitions between the acts, as the sole intermission in this production seems to be spliced into the middle of Act II. There is no gala; instead, three raucous Strauss ballets are interpolated. Manfred Mayrhofer conducts with appropriate brio. 

Herbert Lippert is a tenor Eisenstein who is considerably older than his Rosalinde. He sings the role with ease, though his appearance is more comical than seductive, putting one in mind of 1980s comic Rodney Dangerfield. Lippert’s Rosalinde, Alexandra Reinprecht, seems to be having fun in the role, but her voice is beset by a pervasive wobble. As Adele, Fally is generally loud and unpleasant in her spoken sequences; her singing voice seems to carry well only in its upper reaches. 

Serafin is the Frank, which he clearly enjoys playing, and his son Daniel plays Falke. The younger Serafin is worth watching — he has an attractively louche demeanor, and his baritone has a handsome ring. Strangely enough, it is yoked to an unpleasant squawk of a speaking voice. Orlofsky is played with one-note boredom by Zoryana Kushpler, but her mezzo sounds appealingly dusky. The brightest spot in the cast is the Alfred of Australian tenor Angus Wood, who possesses real charisma and comic charm, not to mention a thrilling Italianate tenor. 

All the principals wear amplification headsets in this production. That’s probably something we are going to have to get used to in the future. spacer

ERIC MYERS

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