Die Fledermaus – ENO – review by Julia Pascal.

Johann Strauss’ comic opera is given a brilliant Freudian interpretation in Christopher Alden’s daring version – a co-production with ENO and the Canadian Opera Company. This is firmly tongue in cheek and the witty a,b rhymes of Stephen Lawless and Daniel Dooner’s translation are delicious. Alden makes the character of Dr Falke (a strong performance from Richard Burkhard) into a mesmeric Dr Freud figure. This look into the future is emphasised by Allen Moyer’s design where a swinging pendulum dominates the stage. It is clear that the time for partying and decadence is about to run out.

Certainly the tension between the traditional Viennese operetta and the deeper forces of Freud’s creation of psychoanalysis work well together. However the synthesis between the singing (sublime) and the spoken text (patchy), jars.

Julia Sporsen’s Rosalinde and Rhian Lois’ Adele have full singing voices but their acting voices are often stuck on one note, particularly when they play together. Similarly Jennifer Holloway’s performance as the Prince Orlofsky is unconvincing. This makes the second act seem long.

And, although the hint of Austria’s fascist future feels organic to the whole, the political threat, so well realised by Jan Pohl’s jailer, is diffused by playing Strauss’ happy end so straight. I longed for the Nazi jailer to force Eisenstein and his fellow champagne-quaffers to play out ‘the happy end ‘ under his whip so as to make the reference to the Auschwitz Orchestra. Would this have been a step too far?

Julia Pascal © 2013.