State Opera Of South Australia. Her Majesty’s Theatre. 25 Oct 2017
David Lampard’s Die Fledermaus has much to commend itself, so why isn’t it a winner? More on that later.
With a sparkling Viennese score by Johan Strauss II, Die Fledermaus is essentially a tongue-in-cheek moral story about the downside of hedonism. Without attempting to pen an all-too-brief summary of the story, let it suffice to say that the plot revolves around the infidelities of Eisenstein and his wife Rosalinde who unbeknown to each other are attending the same party, each in disguise of sorts. The twist is that Eisenstein tries to pick up his own wife! While that hilarious situation unfolds, others too are trying their luck in the illicit love stakes, most notably prison governor Frank who tries it on with Rosalinde’s maid Adele. The action concludes in the prison, where penances are doled out and everyone is suitably chastened.
Lampard not only directs the production, he has also designed it (set and costumes) and choreographed it. His talent almost knows no bounds, but on this occasion, he let his enthusiasm a little too much off the leash: the production is at times unbalanced and at other times tiresome because of excessive (mis)use of farce.
Lampard chooses to set the action in Beverly Hills, and he substantially updates the dialogue to capitalise on the excesses and glam of the LA social elite. It works a treat, and provides frequent giggles and guffaws from the enthusiastic audience. There are sufficient references to the parlous state of American politics to give the show some satirical currency. Lamapard’s scenic and costume design reaches its zenith in the ‘Orlovsky’ Act II, which is greatly enhanced by Nathan Luscombe’s classy lighting design. The choreography is fun, and confidently executed – well done movement coach Daniela Taddeo - but its novel ideas never really reached their full potential. The opening prelude to Act I is a case in point. The parade of comic book superhero’s, who are collectively dressed in the colours of the rainbow and may subliminally reference a certain national plebiscite, is fun but it could have been so much more. Strauss’s waltz rhythms scream for more exuberant and (perhaps) more sympathetic choreography.
The singing principals for the most part handle the score confidently, and their acting skills are a delight. Adam Goodburn is superb as Eisenstein, as is Rosanne Hosking as Prince Orlovsky. Lampard’s reference to Conchita Wurst in Hosking’s costume and stage movement is a highlight. Desiree Frahn is a delight as Rosalinda, and she provides the glue that holds Act I together. Andrew Turner plays fabulously comic dual roles as Dr Blind and Falk, and Karina Jay and Sara-Jane Pattichis as Ida and Adele appropriately pull the focus to themselves with their controlled antics.
The State Opera Chorus is in fine voice and Lampard ensures they value-add with numerous points of interest in every crowd scene. The Adelaide Art Orchestra is conducted by Nicholas Brathwaite, and they conquer the score. The singers are never overpowered, but paradoxically the orchestra itself seemed under-powered at times – for example, the Act I overture really needs extra strings.
So why, with so many positive production elements, wasn’t the show a winner? Quite simply, it doesn’t start off “with a bang”, and Act III includes a fifteen-minute sequence of attempted farcical dialogue and mime that is so laboriously executed that it is akin to an enormous sea-anchor being thrown out that almost scuttles the whole production. It really is a shame. Despite his obvious talent, Rod Schultz struggles to keep the momentum up in what really is an over-written section of the text.
This reviewer’s misgivings aside, Die Fledermaus give the punters a fun night out but probably doesn’t delight the purists.
When: 24 & 25 Oct
Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre