In her program notes for “Die Fledermaus,” director Dorothy Danner compares the giddy goings-on in Johann Strauss II’s perennially popular 1874 operetta to “dancing on the deck of the Titanic.”
“Die Fledermaus,” the operetta by Johann Strauss II, began its long life as a satirical celebration of the flirtatious, wine-soaked, waltz-timed frivolity of late 19th-century Habsburg Vienna. That world and its manners and mores are so long-gone that what was satire now comes across as situation comedy.
Just as daylight saving time went off and left us in the dark, and grim superstorm damage led the news for days, Virginia Opera brought us the welcome lightness and good cheer of their current production of Die Fledermaus at the Harrison Opera House November 10. It really is not to be missed!
Start out right, with Die Fledermaus, as produced by the Virginia Opera. Light hearted, free-wheeling and fast paced, under the stage direction of reliably inventive Dorothy Danner, with music by the waltz king Johann Strauss II, Die Fledermaus should be the perfect first opera for folks who have never attended one.
Saturday evening, the Virginia Opera brought back to the Harrison Opera House one of the most popular operettas, “Die Fledermaus” by Johann Strauss II. With all singing and dialogue in English, the large audience could follow every detail of the comical text.
It’s late 19th century Vienna, the home of Gabriel Von Eisenstein, a wealthy man about town, who loves a good practical joke, even if it humiliates a friend. But what happens when that friend hatches an elaborate scheme to teach the womanizing Von Eisenstein a lesson he won’t soon forget? The answer is revealed in the grandest masked ball of the season, where the champagne flows freely and identity is obscured!
Georges Bizet’s classic tale of forbidden love unfolds on an island fishing village, cloaked in mystique. Pearl fishermen Zurga and Nadir, are old friends who swore an oath to never pursue the beautiful Leila, with whom they are both in love. In preparation for a fishing trip, an anonymous veiled virgin arrives to pray for the fleet’s safety. When the two men learn of the virgin’s true identity, they become locked in a bitter love triangle that tests the bonds of friendship and loyalty.
Dorothy Danner has never been one to rest on her laurels. In 2003 she served as stage director for a well-received production of “Die Fledermaus” at Virginia Opera. This weekend, the company is bringing back the light-hearted Strauss operetta, with Danner again serving as director.
The Virginia Opera presented a delightful evening of opera favorites this past Thursday evening in the main auditorium of Fairfax City’s striking new Stacy C. Sherwood Center on Old Lee Highway. Soloists Abigail Paschke, Megan Marino, Jeremiah Johnson, and Drew Duncan were ably accompanied by pianist and apprentice vocal coach Tessa Hartle during this enjoyable but all-too-brief recital highlighting vocal works from Mozart to Franz Lehar.
So what was French composer Georges Bizet up to before he staked his claim to immortality on “Carmen” shortly before he died in 1875? A dozen years before, the 25-year-old Bizet was warming up to scale the “Carmen” heights with another opera, “The Pearl Fishers,” a beautifully staged production that is launching Virginia Opera’s 35th Richmond season this weekend in the Carpenter Theatre at Richmond CenterStage.