IF you live anywhere near San Jose California, and IF you like any¬†of opera, light opera, operetta, or musicals, THEN run, do not walk, to the Opera San Jos…¬†web site¬†(or call them at 1-408-437-4450) and order your tickets to see Cast I perform¬†Die Fledermaus on Saturday 11/17, Tuesday 11/20, or Sunday (matinee) 11/25.¬†
And why do I urge this so enthusiastically?¬†Elisabeth Russ!¬† I know of no one – and I do mean no one – who does a better job in the role of a pert saucy maid.¬† I had seen her before as Despina (Cosť¨ fan tutte) with¬†West Bay Opera¬†and in¬†Pocket Opera’s production of¬†Puccini’s¬†La Rondine¬†where she and Michael Mendelssohn¬†practically stole the show as the poet Prunier and the¬†parlor maid Lisette.¬† But great as they were, those performances paled beside her interpretation of the housemaid Adele.¬† Her every expression, her every stance, her every motion told you exactly what she was thinking.¬† When she was happy she would literally jump with joy.¬† And all of this with a lovely soprano voice.
Rebecca Krouner¬†is another reason for seeing this cast perform.¬† A clear mezzo voice portraying the 18-year old Prince Orlofsky.¬† I had seen her last year as the even younger Cherubino in¬†Pocket Opera’s production of¬†Marriage of Figaro¬†– in both trouser roles it was difficult to believe that the adolescent young male on stage (whose voice hadn’t cracked yet) was truly a mature female.¬† Females just don’t swagger with that particular combination of innocence and arrogance.
Alex Boyer¬†has been a Resident Artist with¬†Opera San Jos… for several years now, playing more than a dozen of lead roles.¬† I have admired his strong tenor voice, but Sunday he showed a hither-to unsuspected affinity for comic acting.¬† One of the most delightful scenes in the opera occurs in Act I.¬† Herr von Eisenstein (Alex Boyer) is supposed to report immediately to the city jail to serve an 8-day sentence but is actually going first to an all-night champagne party with the promise of lots of beautiful willing women; Frau¬†Rosalinde¬†Eisenstein (Cecilia Violetta Lť≥pez) pretends to be miserable because her husband will be leaving her, but actually her lover is hiding in the next room just waiting for the coast to be clear; the housemaid Adele (Elisabeth Russ) has been granted the night off because she has told her employers that her beloved aunt is deathly sick, but actually that story was a ruse so she could accept an invitation to a fancy ball.¬† Each of them is pouring out his or her woes to suitably dirge-like music, but each is indicating by facial expression and body movement that their thoughts are only on the anticipated pleasures of the coming evening.¬† Slowly and gradually their expressions, their movements, and the music become more and more lively and cheerful until they are dancing merrily around the stage to a lively lilt that is still running through my head.¬† Suddenly the music and dancing stop short as they each realize they are supposed to be miserable – and the whole routine is repeated.¬† I clearly remember this scene from previous performances, and I can’t recall it ever being done better.
In fact, I can’t find a single downside to the performance on Sunday.¬† All of the performers sang well and acted their parts with conviction.¬†Cecilia Violetta Lť≥pez¬†(Rosalinde) is a new soprano Resident Artist this year and has leading roles in all of this season’s performances.¬† I enjoyed her as Leila in¬†The Pearl Fishers¬†and look forward to seeing her as¬†Leonora¬†(Il Trovatore),¬†Sister Angelica¬†(Suor Angelica), and Lauretta¬†(Gianni Schicchi) in the¬†coming months.
Michael Dailey¬†is a former Resident Artist (2008-12) whom I saw and liked in countless tenor roles.¬† He returns for an encore, performing in both casts, and is perfectly cast as Alfredo, an Italian opera singer who is a former lover of Rosalinde¬†and anxious to take up where he left off.
The role of Dr. Falke is aptly sung and acted by baritone¬†Jo Vincent Parks. Although Dr. Falke’s role is only a modest one musically, it is of major significance in the plot of¬†Die Fledermaus¬† (The Bat).¬† In fact, you might say he¬†has orchestrated the plot.¬† Four years before the opera opens he was the victim of a “practical joke”¬†by his good friend, Herr von Eisenstein.¬† Falke had imbibed too much at a costume party on Easter Eve, and had passed out, cold.¬† Instead of taking him home, Eisenstein had left him in the city square to wake up Easter Sunday morning still in his bat costume – to the vast amusement of all the beautifully dressed churchgoers!
For four years Falke has plotted his revenge, waiting for just the right opportunity – tonight, when Eisenstein is scheduled to go to jail.¬† Eisenstein, Rosalinde, Adele, and the chief warden of the prison, Herr Frank (Isaiah Musik-Ayala), have each been given a forged invitation to Prince Orlofsky’s party, together with a false identity several rungs higher on the social ladder than their real one.¬† None of the four know that the others have been invited until they meet after having been introduced in their new persona.
Oh, yes.¬† It is suggested that Rosalinde¬†wear a mask so that she recognizes her husband and her maid, but they don’t recognize her.¬† You can imagine the resulting confusion.¬† Or better still, come to¬†Opera San Jos…¬†on November 17, 20, or 25 (matinee) and experience it for yourself.¬† If you can’t come any of those days, come on the 15th, 18th¬†(matinee), or 23rd¬†for the excitement of seeing the other cast – and if you pick Sunday November 18 at 3 pm, look for me in seat E106.
|Opera San Jos…||California Theatre|
|2149 Paragon Drive||345 South First Street|
|San Jose CA¬† 95131-1312||Betw. San Carlos & San Salvador|
|408-437-4450||Downtown San Jose|
Photos by P. Kirk
This review by Philip G Hodge appeared in sanfranciscosplash.com on November 15, 2012.
P. S.¬†¬† A week later – Cast A ¬†(Postscript added 11/20)
Well, have you seen¬†Die Fledermaus¬†yet?¬† You haven’t?¬† Shame on you.¬† But all is not lost.¬† You still have three more chances: Tuesday 11/20 at 8, Friday 11/23 at 8, or Sunday 11/25 at 3.¬† And never mind which cast.¬† Both casts present thoroughly satisfactory performances – and don’t ask me which one is “better”.¬† I’ll only answer, “Both.”
But what’s the point of making comparisons?¬†¬†Jillian Boye¬†was a wonderfully pert Adele.¬† I had seen her previously with¬†West Bay Opera¬†as Serva d’Amelia (Masked Ball) in 2003, as Eurydice (Orpheus in the Underworld) with¬†Pocket Opera¬†in 2008, and in numerous roles with¬†Opera San Jos…¬†starting in 2004.¬† I certainly look forward to hearing her again this season in both the¬†Puccini¬†one-acts.
James Callon¬†and¬†Melody King¬†were a great pair as Herr von Eisenstein and his wife Rosalinde.¬† Both of them are new Resident Artists this season and will be in all four of the company’s productions.¬† They both had very expressive faces – I particularly enjoyed his sappy smile when he was happy.
Zachary Altman¬†(Dr. Falke) is another Resident Artist in his first year with¬†Opera San Jos….¬† He played Nadir in¬†The Pearl Fishers¬†and will also have major roles in the remaining two performances this season.¬† The company did itself strong in this year’s choices for Resident Artists, and I look forward to lots of great opera in the next couple of years.
Nicole Birkman¬†is still another new Resident Artist this year, but will make only one more appearance as the Principessa in¬†Suor Angelica.¬† Credit for her fine portrayal as Prince Orlofsky must be shared with Costume Designer¬†Cathleen Edwards¬†and Wig & Makeup Designer¬†Jeanna Parham.
Principal Artist¬†Silas Elash¬†is back with the company for yet another season as Nourabad (The Pearl Fishers),¬†Frank¬†(Die Fledermaus),¬†and Ferrando¬†(Il Trovatore).¬† I’ve seen and enjoyed him in countless roles starting with the Duke of Verona (Rom…o et Juliette) and the Registrar (Madama Butterfly) back in 2006-7.¬† He did a great job of both acting and singing in all the scenes he was in.
Three of the performers were in both casts.¬†Michael Dailey¬†was, if possible, even more suave as Alfredo than he was last week – or maybe it was just my closer seat.¬†¬†Michael Mendelsohn¬†is one of my favorite local opera singers whether it be¬†West Bay Opera, Pocket Opera, or¬†Opera San Jos….¬† He can be counted on to find and bring out the comic aspects of whatever tenor role he is singing – here he was delightful as the fussy lawyer, Dr.¬†Blind.
The final role is that of the non-singing Jailer, Frosch.¬†¬†Kelly Houston¬†has appeared in numerous musicals in the Bay Area, but apparently Frosch is his only operatic endeavor – and he performs it to perfection.
And there you have it.¬† The next step is yours.¬† Only three more chances to see the happiest entertainment available in the Bay Area: November 20, 23, or 25m.¬† Don’t miss it!