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 José 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 (Così 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 José 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 López) 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 López (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 José 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 José||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 José 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 José. 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 (Roméo 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 José. 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!