Johann Strauss' charming operetta, "Die Fledermaus," is one of the most well-loved and enduring works of its genre. Despite being, in essence, a story of revenge, the characters' unquenchable love for life and Strauss' jovial score, which satirizes any sentiments of genuine ill-will, have anchored "Die Fledermaus" as the centerpiece of operetta. The New England Conservatory's opening performance of an English version of "Die Fledermaus" lived up to the institution's stellar reputation.
The elegant sets and costumes and superb singers set the bustling atmosphere and brought out the most in Strauss' bombastic characters. So Young Park's confident and coquettish Adele stole the show. In Adele's showy Act II aria, "My Dear Marquis," Park's sleek singing was effortless and almost conversational in its dexterity. Park, in particular, highlighted the wealth of humor embedded in the text, but also had great comic sense on the stage, making her a captivating presence.
Suzanne Grogan's Rosalinda was the perfect balance of poised and indignant. Her resonant and bodied sound was well suited for the sustained notes and legato phrases of Rosalinda's "Czardas." Her humor was guided more so by vocal inflection than physicality and her powerful tone, which rang vibrantly through the part's wide range, drenched the double-edged lyrics in irony.
The rich tone of baritone Juhan Choi realized Rosalinda's self-absorbed, smooth-talking husband, Eisenstein. Choi was a great collaborator in the operetta's many ensembles and stole the spotlight at appropriate and effective moments. He played the character we love to hate, and though we can't wait to see the prank unfold at his expense, we are also glad to see him forgiven in the end. Joshua Quinn's scheming Falke was the patient mastermind pulling all the strings in this farcical whirlwind. He played the part with subtlety and sang with a grounded tone.
The eccentricity of Gillian Lynn Cotter's androgynous and disconcertingly straight-faced Prince Orlofsky hieghted the edge of absurdity. The thick Russian accent and deadpan expression Cotter employed made quite a comedic splash. She displayed commendable vocal agility in her jumpy Act II aria and the lively drinking song.
The show's only shortcoming was in the spoken dialogue, which, at times was a little mechanical. Tenor Marco Antonio Jordao was one of the few who seemed unfazed by the transitions between dialogue and singing (perhaps because his spoken parts included so many operatic outbursts). Jordao was at home on the stage and used his truly ardent tone to great comic avail.
Stephen Lord's animated tempos kept the sparks flying throughout the comic romp and drew a buoyant sound from NEC's able musicians. The abounding choreography was at times slapstick and at others elegant, but always amusing and true to the spirit of the show.
From beginning to end, "Die Fledermaus" was entertainment of the highest caliber. "Die Fledermaus" will be performed on April 20, 21, and 22 at the Cutler Majestic Theater.