Opera…not for everyone. I certainly felt that way as I settled into my seat, acclimatizing to the faint scent of murray mints and farts, and the quiet squeaks of protesting hearing aids. That may be a slight exaggeration, but it was no lie that I was a fair few decades younger than 95% of my fellow theatre goers this evening. It didn’t fill me with confidence, and I anticipated enduring a few hours of incomprehensible dramatics and a few windbags (cast, not my seated neighbours).
There was something quite comforting in the air tonight however, and I felt goosebumps as the orchestra began to play. I was quite pleased with myself for recognising some of the music, and liked the look of the lavish set. I wasn’t familiar with the synopsis of the play (seemingly a theme for me) and had no idea what to expect, although if operatic history is anything to go by I anticipated some kind of love related issue!!
I was initially a little stumped by the thick accent of the chambermaid in the opening scene, but quickly realised there were subtitles handily projected at the top of the stage (I was 3 rows from the front so a little neck craning was required) . Adele was a confident and cheeky lady, serving her master Gabriele and mistress Rosalinde. She raised a few titters within the opening scene, which is always a good sign. In a nut shell, Gabriele is due to go to prison for 8 days and Rosalinde decides to have a little bit of fun while he is gone…but Gabriele also has a similar idea before his incarceration. Adele is a bit of a minx and has her own agenda to fulfil, which causes further chaos and merriment. The plot is timeless (although belief may need to be suspended a little!) and far more compelling than I had thought it would be. I couldn’t choose a particular favourite actor this evening, which is unlike me but I feel shows an equally strong and endearing performance from all involved. What I hadn’t considered was how much fun can be had with opera, and that it isn’t all stuffy middle class rubbish. There was some really fantastic tongue in cheek humour, making reference to modern day which certainly helped draw anyone of less than octogenarian age into the moment. I was stunned at how quickly the story unfolded and developed, and how entertained I was despite the limited set changes. Having not realised there were three acts (and therefore two intervals) I was a little confused when the lights came up at what seemed a crucial moment…silly me!
The cast were all fantastic, and complimented each other beautifully. I was surprised to see the prince played by a female (I thought gender swapping was reserved more for panto!?) but it worked really well. If I was going to be critical I would note that some of the vocals were a little on the quiet side, and I wondered how other audience members were coping (both from a positioning of seating and a hearing aid aspect!). The chorus were very good at filling the stage and blending into the background, which is the point of them, but unlike in other recent productions I’ve seen I wasn’t ‘wowed’ by any of them. There was a little bit of dancing but I didn’t feel it matched up to the quality of the acting and vocals. I did also notice that as soon as the curtain came down at the end (the see through one), a chorus member was kicking some of the set out of the way which slightly spoilt all the grace that had gone before.
All in all I laughed far more than I thought I ever would, and didn’t feel like I was watching a production that was sent to test my IQ. I really liked that it had been adjusted for a more modern audience, but also seemed to please the more seasoned theatre goers around me. I would happily take my mum, best mate or my grandma to see this production as I found it so inclusive and accessible.I very much enjoyed the feel that a mature audience brought this evening, but hope that people who would normally avoid opera because it’s “too posh” will give Die Fledermaus a go. I will definitely be more open minded to attending productions of this kind in future after enjoying this one so much.