Review: “Die Fledermaus”

Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Dr.
When: through Jan. 18
Phone: 312-332-2244

By M.L. RANTALA
Classical Music Critic

If you like to greet the new year with champagne and you love opera, you probably know that “Die Fledermaus” contains one of the most joyous musical tributes to champagne ever written. Lyric Opera is now offering a new production (which originated in San Francisco) of Johann Strauss Jr.’s frothy romp, one of the most beloved works in the operetta canon.

German soprano Juliane Banse, making her American opera debut, is a fetching Rosalinde. She easily displays both elegance and savvy while singing with energy and accuracy. She knows how to control the stage and how to effectively share it.

One of her most effective partners is the great Danish baritone Bo Skovhus, who takes the role of her husband Gabriel. He’s a handsome and stylish man as well as a handsome and stylish singer. I’m not a big fan of obvious humor, but there’s no question that Skovhus works hard to make his gags work, and most viewers will certainly be amused by his antics. He’s physically nimble, sports a remarkably engaging smile and has impeccable timing.

Also making her American debut is Austrian soprano Daniela Fally as the housemaid Adele. This role is super-charged with a kind of silliness that can easily fall flat, but Fally infuses her performance with the kind of detail that can make even a ridiculous scene interesting.

In his Lyric Opera debut, American tenor Michael Spyres is a game Alfred, even with his somewhat dull approach to the kooky fellow who loved Rosalinde before she married Gabriel and who tries to resuscitate that old relationship. He’s not the most interesting Alfred you’ll ever see, but he does have his moments.

Ryan Center alum Emily Fons is an utterly splendid Prince Orlofsky. She easily navigates this trouser role, creating a most convincing royal who has seen it all and lives to entertain others. She sings with vigor, dances with grace, acts with sparkle and provides the operetta’s vital integument.

Other notable cast members include Adrian Eröd as Dr. Falke, Andrew Shore as Frank and David Cangelosi as Dr. Blind.

The staging is detailed, pretty and effective. Rosalinde and Gabriel’s home is a charming, two-level affair that helps tell the story. Orlofsky’s residence is big and airy enough for lots of action, but contains enough detail to create a sumptuous feeling. The costumes are appropriate if generally forgettable, save the marvelous way Thierry Bosquet has decked out the prince: regal, masculine, with just the right splash of dandiness.

Like most productions of this opera, the jokes are usually telegraphed with too much effort, yet there is enough splendid music to keep you satisfied, such as the famous czárdás that Rosalinde deploys in the second act.

Ward Stare leads the orchestra in a bubbly rendition of the score and the Lyric Opera Chorus provides marvelous vocal and mute acting support.

You can count on smiles if you ring in your new year with this “Fledermaus.”