As a change to the originally scheduled operetta for July 14, “Countess Maritza” will be replaced by “Denevér” or “Die Fledermaus”. The orchestral score of Johann Strauss is as effervescent as the champagne that flows at Prince Orlofsky’s elaborate, lavish ball in this cheerful fun-loving operetta.
There are also chances for opera singers to shine, as interspersed with a lot of sharp, witty dialogue and comedy, the production contains a rich blend of baritone, tenor, mezzo and soprano roles. This is a piece that demands opulence; all elegant Viennese costumes and strikingly beautiful set design. Without glitz and glamour, it is difficult to lose yourself in the performance, and the candy-sweet escapism is, after all, the main agenda of a comic opera or operetta.
This operetta is also the perfect introduction to opera for those reluctant to sit through dark, intense tragedies. True, the plot is a bit meandering at times, the characters with their disguises and facades a little bewildering but the general mood is light and frothy, a bubbling and energetic comedy set to the whirling waltzes of Strauss, perfect for a summer’s evening in the stifling central European heat. It is still popular among some opera purists as it falls under the opera/operetta genre and often forms part of many big opera houses’ repertoires.
Hungarian State Opera’s New Year production included a late showing on the eve itself, an inventive tactic with the action taking place at a dazzling New Year’s party thrown by Prince Orlofsky.
“Die Fledermaus” is immensely popular throughout the opera world, a whirlwind pace of happiness and humour; in the right director’s hands, of course. It can be difficult to find the balance between comedy that is genuinely humorous without descending into crude stereotypical jokes. It is deceptively complex to get this Viennese operetta just right for the modern audience without it looking jaded or just plain absurd.
I have seen some shocking productions stuffed full of crass humour and inappropriate casting with characters wandering around the stage as though they needed a map. But be assured, the Open Air Theatre will deliver a version that will be as glitzy as the wild summer parties in the “The Great Gatsby”.
Above all, the operetta should remain truly light-hearted, just touching on the darkness beneath the surface and not digging any deeper. This is not the place for soul-searching and psychoanalysis. The music speaks of laughter and joy with whirling waltzes, a consistently upbeat score from the orchestra pit and sparkling high notes from the performers themselves.
As refreshing as ice-cold champagne.
“Denevér/ Die Fledermaus”
Thursday July 14, 8pm
Városmajor Open Air Stage
Festival tickets and information:
Open Air ticket office:
Nagymező utca 68, District VI