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Go batty for Opera Idaho’s breezy ‘Die Fledermaus’

Kansas City-based tenor Ben Gulley will make his Opera Idaho debut in Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus,” an endearing comic operetta about love, revenge and forgiveness.
Kansas City-based tenor Ben Gulley will make his Opera Idaho debut in Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus,” an endearing comic operetta about love, revenge and forgiveness.

Johann Strauss II would be a pop star today. You can sense it when hearing his compositions for the comic operetta “Die Fledermaus,” which Opera Idaho will perform Friday and Sunday at the Egyptian Theatre in Boise.

Strauss’ melodies are light and effervescent, memorable and catchy and help propel this breezy comic farce, says director Benjamin Spierman.

“This show is a total confection,” he says. “It’s all based on one silly event that leads to another silly event, that leads to another. It’s just fun and thoroughly entertaining.”

The operetta’s spoken dialogue and songs will be performed in English, with a dialogue Spierman wrote for this production.

“Productions of ‘Fledermaus’ in America are more fluid, and there are opportunities for anachronistic and topical humor, which we’ve done,” Spierman says. “And most companies here skip the ballet and instead introduce surprise guests from the community at the party.”

Opera Idaho is going the surprise-guest route — and the company is keeping a tight lid on exactly who those guests are.

“Die Fledermaus” means “The Bat,” a reference to the event that sparks all these comic shenanigans. In the story, Falke (baritone Jason Detwiler) wants revenge on his friend Eisenstein (tenor Ben Gulley) who abandoned him in the middle of Vienna in a Fledermaus costume after a party.

So, Falke arranges for Eisenstein to attend a masked ball, with the intention of having Eisenstein’s wife, Rosalinde (soprano Jessica E. Jones), catch him in an infidelity, which she does when she flirts with him in disguise. You see, most of the characters attend the ball by pretense, so there’s lots of chances for mistaken identities and hijinks.

The operetta’s central scene happens at a party where you don’t really know what’s going to happen.

“That’s really the feeling of the entire piece,” Spierman says. “It’s really organized chaos.”

At the heart of that chaos is a love story between Rosalinde and Eisenstein.

“Rosalinde is grappling with the idea that love is not perfect, but it does triumph in the end,” says Jones, who grew up in Pocatello but now calls Houston home. “Their relationship is strong enough to stand up to all the silliness, and in the end, she appreciates him in a new way.”

The love is there, certainly, but you have to remember this is operetta, “...so, it’s more of a caricature of love,” Gulley says. “That goes more in line with the art form and the tone of that time when everyone had someone on the side. So, infidelity gets a slap on the wrist and everything turns out well.”

Opera Idaho’s “Die Fledermaus”

7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St., Boise. $14.40-$72. OperaIdaho.org. EgyptianTheatre.net.

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