Die Fledermaus - Coliseum, 30 September 2013 (first night)
This was a frustrating evening. A few good ideas are buried in Christopher Alden's surreal take on Die Fledermaus but they simply don't cohere. The director's Freudian perspective is awkwardly framed in a Weimar-meets-Rocky Horror aesthetic, each diluting the impact of the other. There was romance and realism, there was out-there absurdism, but they failed to mesh. It was clear we were not in for an evening of golden-hued Andre Rieu-style nostalgia, but what Alden left in its place was too unfocused to be called a 'concept'. Next to his superb, pointed Midsummer Night's Dream, this show seems thrown together.
And it's not in any way shocking, whatever the photos and the Daily Telegraph suggest. There are underpants aplenty and a fat bloke in a tutu, but the promised 'orgies and S&M' turn out to be no more than sweetly titillating diversions. Unsure of whether it's aiming for straight comedy, post-modern ironic wit or revisionist critique, the production flounders until it sinks.
The final death blow is dealt by an embarrassingly dreadful translation from Stephen Lawless and Daniel Dooner, unsingably couched in greeting-card rhymes. Perhaps it was fortunate most of the spoken sections were either garbled by the singers or muffled by the unfriendly acoustic, or both.
The musical results were equally patchy. Only Edgaras Montvidas (Alfred) hit all the targets - singing, acting and speaking. The Lithuanian subtly parodied the traditional handsome dimwit tenor, articulating his words more clearly than most of the native speakers. Rhian Lois was the other standout. She had the spunk, sparkle and comic timing to make a delightful Adele, but the volume often fell short.
Julia Sporsén's Rosalinde was uncertainly pitched between reality and absurdity and Tom Randle's Eisenstein too intense. Andrew Shore's prison governor Frank was overburdened with unconvincing and unfunny 'business' to compensate for his shortage of actual lines. I suspect we should blame Alden rather than Jennifer Holloway for her bizarre, manic Orlofsky.
A better conductor might have compensated for the production's shortcomings, but Eun Sun Kim was merely efficient. The tempos seemed correct but the music was poker-straight, criminally undanceable. Fizz and froth don't often have a place in classical music, but they were desperately needed here.
production photos (above) Robert Workman/ENO
curtain call photos (below) intermezzo.typepad.com