English National Opera’s racy new production of ‘Die Fledermaus’

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Canadian Opera Company’s 2012 production of ‘Die Fledermaus’
Photo credit: Chris Hutcheson

Strauss’ classic comedy operetta Die Fledermaus has been a favourite with audiences since its first production in Vienna on April 5th, 1874.  It’s colourful, frivolous and fun, bubbling over with wonderfully memorable melodies – but it’s probably never been quite so much fun as English National Opera’s new production.  Racy, risqué and sophisticated, this is Fledermaus as you’ve never seen it before!

ENO – with its flair for the unconventional recreation of classic works – presents Christopher Alden’s version of this tale of revenge, seduction and mistaken identity – a production inspired by the elegant black-and-white films of Hollywood director, Ernst Lubitsch.  Co-produced with Canadian Opera Company, this delightfully irreverent presentation premiered in Toronto in 2012 to great acclaim.

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‘Die Fledermaus’ is a co-production between ENO and Canadian Opera Company
Photo credit: Chris Hutcheson

Over the past five seasons, Christopher Alden has directed a number of highly successful productions for ENO, including Partenope (winner of the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Production), The Makropulos Case and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (winner of Russia’s prestigious Golden Mask Award for opera and theatre).  Now, 20 years since the last ENO production of Die Fledermaus, Alden brings it back to the Company – but in an Art Deco-inspired interpretation of  the events taking place at Prince Orlofsky’s glitzy high-society party, with its somewhat unusual guest list.  Man-about-town Eisenstein is to be jailed, his wife is being seduced by a previous lover, and his friend Dr Falke has a plan to exact revenge for a past prank.  No wonder everybody wants to be there – who could resist!

The principal role of Gabriel von Eisenstein is taken by Tom Randle, whose history with ENO goes back 27 years when he debuted as Tamino in Nicholas Hytner’s production of The Magic Flute.  A more recent appearance for the Company was the Captain in Carrie Cracknell’s production of Wozzeck – described by The Arts Desk as a “scarily committed and full-on performance”.

Celebrated American mezzo soprano, Jennifer Holloway, makes her debut with ENO as Prince Orlofsky.  She recently appeared as a “bewitching” Dorabella (according to Opera News) in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte at the New National Theatre in Tokyo.

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Ambur Braid as Adele in Canadian Opera Company’s production
Photo credit: Chris Hutcheson

Well known for nurturing talent which is both British and British-trained, the Company has cast ENO Harewood Artists Julia Sporsén and Rhian Lois in the roles of Rosalinde and Adele respectively.  Soprano Sporsén has most recently appeared with ENO as Livia in Detlev Glanert’s Caligula and in the title role of Martinů’s Julietta.  Rhian Lois played Papagena in the last revival of Hytner’s The Magic Flute in 2012, Frasquita in Calixto Bieito’s Carmen and Nerine in David McVicar’s Medea during 2012/13 season.  Also in the cast are Richard Burkhard as Dr Falke and Andrew Shore as Frank.

Leading the ENO Orchestra will be Korean conductor Eun Sun Kim, making her ENO debut with Die Fledermaus.  Winner of the First Prize at the International Jesús López Cobos Opera Conducting Competition in Madrid in 2008, Eun Sun Kim assisted Cobos at Madrid’s Teatro Real from 2008-2010, and a more recent accolade was her selection as a finalist at the 2013 German Conductor Prize in Berlin.

Die Fledermaus is sung and surtitled in English, with the German libretto – originally created by Karl Haffner and Richard Genée – translated by Stephen Lawless & Daniel Dooner.  Completing the creative team are set designer Allen Moyer, costume designer Constance Hoffman and lighting designer Paul Palazzo.

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The London Coliseum
Photo courtesy The London Coliseum

The production will run at the London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane – the biggest, and one of the most elegant, theatres in the city.  It was designed by Frank Matcham for Sir Oswald Stoll, with the aim of creating the largest and finest ‘People’s palace of entertainment’ of its time.  It opened in 1904, with the inaugural performance – a variety bill – taking place on 24th December that year.

Between 1931 and 1968, the theatre changed its name from the London Coliseum to the Coliseum Theatre.  During the Second World War, it served as a canteen for Air Raid Patrol workers, and Winston Churchill gave a speech from the stage. After 1945 it was mainly used for American musicals before becoming a cinema, for seven years, from 1961.

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Interior of The London Coliseum
Photo credit: G de Laubier

In 1968, the theatre reopened as The London Coliseum, home of Sadler’s Wells Opera, which in 1974 became English National Opera.  The Company bought the freehold of the building in 1992, and the Coliseum underwent a complete and detailed restoration between 2000 and 2004, during which time the auditorium and other public areas were returned to their Edwardian splendour, and new public spaces were created.  An original staircase which had been planned by Frank Matcham, was finally installed, and The London Coliseum re-opened in 2004.

Die Fledermaus runs for 11 performances, from 30th September to 2nd November.  For further information and tickets, please visit the English National Opera website www.eno.org/fledermaus.  Information on all performances in this current ENO season can be found on www.eno.org.

Christopher Alden

Ernst Lubitch

Canadian Opera Company

 

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