Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Theatre Review by Vidar Hjardeng - Die Fledermaus, Cardiff

Review of the audio described performance of WNO’s Die Fledermaus at the Millenium Centre in Cardiff at 4.00 pm on Sunday, 27 February 2011, from Vidar Hjardeng.

Yesterday afternoon, it was a real treat to return to Cardiff’s Millenium Centre to enjoy the audio described performance of Die Fledermaus, at the start of Welsh National Opera’s Spring tour which will include audio described performances of this comic opera at various venues, including the Birmingham Hippodrome on Friday 11 March in the evening.

On my train journey to the Welsh capital I was able to listen not only to Sightlines’ very comprehensive background notes on this particular production, but also the equally helpful synopsis of the plot, by Simon Reece, produced by WNO on a CD containing resumes of all their operas in the 2010/11 season, as well as musical highlights from each work.

Composed by Johannes Strauss the younger, and this production directed by internationally acclaimed John Copley,

Die Fledermaus – the Bat – is a farce set in Vienna telling the story of a couple, Eisenstein and Rosalinde, and their circle of friends. Gabriel von Eistenstein has been given an 8 day prison sentence for a minor offence, and his wife is planning to have an affair with her singing teacher, Alfred, whilst her husband is in prison. Eistenstein’s friend, Dr Falke, is angry with Eisenstein for a trick he played on him following a party - to his embarrassment, and the amusement of onlookers, Falke had been left in the open dressed as a bat, and now wants to take his revenge. Before Eisenstein’s sentence begins at midnight that same evening, Falke invites him to go to a party at the Russian millionaire, Prince Orlofsky’s house, where Rosalinde turns up as a mysterious Hungarian countess and Eistenstein ends up flirting with his own wife!

Lasting for 3 hours including 2 intervals, this production was set in the elegant cosmopolitan Austrian capital in 1900, with endless parties and amorous dalliances. Nobles and servants were all richly and fashionably attired in brightly coloured silk and velvet costumes, some of which we able to literally get a feel of during our touch tour behind the scenes of the Millenium stage. On this touch tour we were also able to explore the Rennie Mackintosh designs of Eisenstein’s drawing room – the first location for Act 1 – sparsely furnished with a few elegant pieces, such as a hexagonal table with 3 matching white painted upright dining chairs, and a chaise longue covered with a Rennie Mackintosh pale lemon and green fabric, over which was draped a tasselled cream throw embroidered with a pattern of pink silk roses.

Having met Katie from Welsh National Opera, on previous touch tours at the Birmingham Hippodrome, I was delighted to see that she was once again on hand to share her enthusiasm, along with describers, Jonathan Nash and Julia Grundy, by showing us some of the other props including some very realistic ‘crystal’ vases which had been specially made for the show out of Perspex. We were also shown the equally convincing ‘vines’ which formed the backdrop for Prince Orlofsky’s garden, the setting for Act 2, and before leaving the very spacious wings of the Millenium Centre we also had a look at the prison which was the setting of the final act. Katie, Jonathan and Julia, all did their utmost to ensure that fellow VIPs got the most out of exploring the set, props and costumes and these really came to life, when listening to a reprise of the introductory notes having taken our seats in the splendid auditorium 15 minutes before curtain-up.

During these introductory notes we were promised that the arias would be uninterrupted by ‘live’ commentary which was indeed the case. Perhaps even more importantly, we were assured that descriptions would be given in such a way that we would be able to share in the many comic moments, at the same time as the sighted members of the audience – I’m delighted to say that this too was the case - a testimony to Jonathan and Julia’s meticulous preparation and skilfully timed delivery.

Returning to Birmingham in the evening I was able to reflect on the splendid singing in another thoroughly enjoyable operatic experience which given half the chance I’d be more than happy to repeat at any of the forth coming audio described shows on the tour.

It’s worth remembering that WNO currently offer visually impaired patrons, 3 audio-described productions each year and they are already thinking about their next audio-described opera, namely Puccini’s masterpiece, Turandot, which is set to feature in the summer tour to include the Birmingham Hippodrome on Friday 10 June, in the evening. Details on ticket prices for this, and next week’s audio described Die Fledermaus, and how to book headsets and places on the touch tour can be obtained from the Hippodrome’s box office on 0844 338 5000.

No comments: