Estados Unidos

Santa Fe Opera 2: Divertissement

Jesse Simon
jueves, 10 de agosto de 2017
Santa Fe, martes, 1 de agosto de 2017. Santa Fe Opera. Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus. Ned Canty, director. Sets, Allen Moyer. Costumes, Zack Brown and Christianne Myers. Kurt Streit (Gabriel von Eisenstein), Devon Guthrie (Rosalinde), Jane Archibald (Adele), Adelaide Boedecker (Ida), Dimitri Pittas (Alfred), Joshua Hopkins (Dr Falke), David Govertsen (Frank), Paula Murrihy (Prince Orlofsky), Stephen Carroll (Dr Blind) and Kevin Burdette (Frosch). Chorus and Orchestra of the Santa Fe Opera. Nicholas Carter, conductor
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Few would argue that Die Fledermaus is a demanding work: its textbook plot has many turns but few surprises, and its music – like fried chicken, or any of the pastries at Ladurée – is guiltily enjoyable, if only in small doses. Yet only a total killjoy or disingenuous critic would claim that the production at this summer’s Santa Fe Opera was anything other than delightful. It may not be anyone’s idea of serious opera, but Ned Canty’s lively production, bolstered by several strong comedic performances, resulted in an engaging entertainment that made a virtue of its own frivolity.

The production was sung in English – in a translation by Ruth and Thomas Martin – and the dialogue was adapted by Charles Ludlam from W.S. Gilbert’s On Bail, itself a reworking of his earlier Committed for Trial, an adaptation of Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy’s Le Réveillon, on which the original libretto for Die Fledermaus was also based. The resulting work, which effectively bypassed all possible branches of the German text and retained only the music of Strauss, managed to capture the crowd-pleasing essence of its source in a way that an original-language production might have missed.

The staging was generically traditional without being specifically Viennese; the sets and the costumes evoked a pan-European bourgeois milieu from an indeterminate time before the first world war. But if director Ned Canty was uninterested in trying to reposition or reinvent the story, his staging was nonetheless well conceived, with fluid action, a strong sense of narrative propulsion, and an abundance of visual detail both obvious and subtle. (Why was one of the guests at the Prince’s soirée wearing a bathrobe? We may never know). Most of all, it was funny. It took a few moments to acclimatise to the heightened mannerism and theatrical enunciation of the principal performances, but once the parameters had been set, the situations unfolded with a calculated sense of the absurd.

Rosalinda (Devon Guthrie) and Alfred (Dimitri Pittas) in Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus. Nicholas Carter, conductor. Ned Canty, director. Santa Fe Opera, August 2017Rosalinda (Devon Guthrie) and Alfred (Dimitri Pittas) in Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus. Nicholas Carter, conductor. Ned Canty, director. Santa Fe Opera, August 2017 © Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2017

Behind a thin layer of knowingness, there was a charmingly old-school approach to comedy that employed equal parts slapstick, ridiculous foreign accents, topical ad-libs and simple comic timing in the service of generating laughs. The Italian tenore schtick of Alfred was only a shade more credible than Chico Marx, although considerably more convincing than the thick pseudo-slavic inflections of Orlofsky and the ‘I guess that’s supposed to be Hungarian’ accent adopted by Rosalinde in the second act. But in the world of comedy, the least plausible accents can often have the greatest the potential for humour. The spoken role of Frosch the jailer – played with zealous camp by Kevin Burdette – got considerable mileage out of a mysterious ‘hole in the floor’ behind a desk into which he repeatedly ‘fell’; but he was also able to get a few easy laughs taking pot-shots at the difficulty of finding a decent parking space at the Santa Fe Opera.

If the humour was mostly obvious, it was also reasonably chaste and good natured. Mr Canty never missed an opportunity to milk a gag, but also largely resisted the temptation of coarseness; he had the good sense to stop milking as soon as a gag crossed the line from endearing to obnoxious. The fact that the heightened set-ups always stopped just shy of growing tiresome was, itself, a minor miracle, and the skilful integration of broadly comedic moments into the progression of the story was a testament to Mr Canty’s lightness of touch.

Frosch (Kevin Burdette), Gabriel von Eisenstein (Kurt Streit), and Rosalinda (Devon Guthrie) in Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus. Nicholas Carter, conductor. Ned Canty, director. Santa Fe Opera, August 2017 Frosch (Kevin Burdette), Gabriel von Eisenstein (Kurt Streit), and Rosalinda (Devon Guthrie) in Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus. Nicholas Carter, conductor. Ned Canty, director. Santa Fe Opera, August 2017 © Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2017

The cast, for their part, seemed to be enjoying themselves, and their enthusiasm gave the production some of its buoyancy. Although the Adele of Jane Archibald and the Falke of Joshua Hopkins stood very slightly above their peers in terms of vocal presence, the principals functioned very well as an ensemble, each player an equal piece in the larger puzzle of the plot. Dimitri Pittas, as Alfred, provided the evening with an exceptional comedy tenor, belting out the opening lines of famous arias with fulsome passion, but stealing the scene more quietly in the concluding trio of the first act. As Eisenstein, Kurt Streit was equal parts conniving and flustered, with a healthy dose of self-righteousness and a cool, highly dignified vocal tone. David Govertsen was stern and unruffled as Frank the warden, but prone to greater whimsy in his disguise as Chevalier de Chagrin; his budding friendship with Eisenstein, built around a mutual ignorance of the French language, was a delight. Yet it was Mr Hopkins as Dr Falke who established himself at the core of the action, acting as the evening’s secret master of ceremonies and taking the audience as confidante for his intrigues; his duet with Mr Streit in the first act featured, in vocal terms alone, some of the evening’s finest singing.

Devon Guthrie was generally more compelling as the long-suffering Rosalinde than as the mysterious Hungarian countess, if only because the faux-Hungarian accent that she was forced to adopt served mostly to undercut the severity of the csárdás. Paula Murrihy – who had sung the more demanding role of Ruggiero in Alcina several days earlier – was also somewhat hampered by having to sing with a ridiculous accent, but nonetheless provided the evening with an endearingly blasé Prince Orlofsky. Jane Archibald’s Adele, however, gave the production a human centre: her disenfranchised chambermaid, longing for adventure in the real world was brought to life with expansive, finely-controlled voice and elegant phrasing.

Adele (Jane Archibald) and the Santa Fe Opera Chorus in Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus. Nicholas Carter, conductor. Ned Canty, director. Santa Fe Opera, August 2017 Adele (Jane Archibald) and the Santa Fe Opera Chorus in Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus. Nicholas Carter, conductor. Ned Canty, director. Santa Fe Opera, August 2017 © Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2017

Conductor Nicholas Carter led the orchestra through an efficient, urbane reading of the score. One may have wished for greater romp in the second act polka, or a less metrical, more opulent waltz, but Mr Carter’s gently sculpted, judiciously paced scenes had a subtlety that allowed the comedy on the stage to flourish. If neither Mr Carter nor Mr Canty were ultimately able to make an argument for Die Fledermaus being anything more than a guilty pleasure, they at least ensured that the pleasure outweighed the guilt.

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