The summer means holiday for music makers in Vienna. The opera houses take a two-month pause and even the artists in the musical cafes are largely on holiday.
Imagine my delight upon finding a performance of Die Fledermaus performed in the town of its première. Even better was the opportunity to see this operetta in the Schönbrunn palace theatre. Opened in the palace grounds in 1747, this ornate building was home to Empress Marie Theresa’s private theatre.
Surrounded by gilt and glittering chandeliers, the young cast from University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna could have easily been outshone. Happily, this couldn’t be further from the case; this performance of Die Fledermaus was a great showcase for all involved.
Set upon a giant red helix (which helpfully provides multiple levels and a convenient gaol for act 3), the action whizzes by. Khatarina Czernin’s choreography shows off the opera singers' physical agility as they throw themselves about the set. Eisenstein and Dr Falke even enact flying army rolls over a desk before jumping up to sing with no detrimental effect.
Beverly Blakenship (director) adds a layer of magic to the story; Falke controls the action with a letter sent here and a shower of glitter there. He cues the orchestra, and dances along to the overture. This touch allows for streamlined dialogue and well-paced action. Blakenship also fills the show with satisfying details: the maid Adele cannot help but leap for thrown shoes and coats, even when posing as a famous actress.
There is wonderful singing from all, but it is the trio of female leads who vocally steal the show. Mareike Jankowski (Prince Orlovsky) has a melting, rich tone, though lags a little in the faster tempos. Seung Hee Kim (Rosalinde) sings with sultry-sweetness, tempting all men that come near. Brigitta Simon (Adele) is a delight, her excellent coming timing paired with effortless high notes make a dynamic package. Eisenstein (Daniel Foki) and Dr Falke (Christoph Filler) have enough energy to keep the show buoyant and along with Frank (Michael Nagl) make a hilarious trio.
The Schönbrunn Festival Orchestra captures the Vienese spirit under the baton of Guido Mancusi. They add musical sparkle with joyous flexibility and break-neck speeds. Sadly, the final chords of each number fail to resonate and leave the audience feel a little dampened at the exact moment they wish to applaud.
This is a thoroughly entertaining evening, and a chance to see singers who look set to have glittering futures. Whilst the other musicians holiday, it’s a rare treat to enjoy Die Fledermaus in its birthplace coupled with the breathtaking surroundings of the Schönbrunn Palace.
Reviewer: Louise Lewis