If it isn’t already clear by my blog filled with colloquial and down to earth reviews – I want to make theatre more accessible, especially to younger generations. Whether its watching, acting or reviewing I believe the disconnect between the performing arts industry and younger generations has become too big, and I will always aim to change this. One of the reasons why this is may be due to the abundance of negative connotations around theatre. It’s mostly full of old men, it’s too expensive, the shows are long, boring and difficult to understand. Pretentious, dry, stuffy, boring, the list goes on…
And I’ll admit, I even picture images of busty ladies in long dresses standing still belting out high notes in a foreign language when someone mentions opera. It’s not an area I am an expert in and have seen very few, all of which have been rather dark and heavy stories with complicated jargon, confusing plots and indistinct yet beautiful singing.
*Enter Welsh National Opera* These guys are at the forefront of this new opera revolution that I hope is here to stay. They are attempting to put a stop to all these stereotypes by making one of their latest productions, Die Fledermaus, a lighthearted, accessible, understandable operetta. I believe they have truly succeeded in creating the perfect “first opera.”
The reasons for which are threefold…
Even without the surtitles above the stage I could easily understand what they were saying most of the time. And when I didn’t, that’s when the surtitles came in handy! The plot was easy to follow and a strong storyline helped carried the actors through smoothly. Three act and three scenes made things all the more straightforward and I’m certainly not complaining about two intervals and therefore two glasses of wine either… Each character had it’s own personal tragedy to follow which are all tied up neatly at the end of the evening, all of which could be made applicable to modern day life, even to the point that I turned to my plus one and made a joke about the characters being him and his friend.
I think one of the first lines in the show is mocking the traditional opera with its excessive vibrato notes. This theme of self deprecation doesn’t fade throughout the show and has everybody chuckling. The fourth wall is broken quickly to bring you closer to the characters and story, making it even more relatable. If the fourth wall is broken in the first few interactions then Steve Spiers as Frosch smashes down its remnants in the final act with his stand up comedy section as he chats to the conductor and the “band”. This felt a little out of place but it was well received by the audience who lapped up his slapstick portrayal of the drunk jailer. Speaking to Steve before the show he told me that “Die Fledermaus is an operetta, so there is spoken dialogue and it’s really, really accessible. That’s the thing I tell everybody. Die Fledermaus is a really good opera to pop your cherry on.”
Skills were shown in every area, and there really wasn’t a weak link amongst the main cast. Acting was strong and singing was out of this world. For somebody that sounds like a dying cat when they sing I am always amazed by professional singers and these guys were just out of this world. Talent oozed out from production too with beautiful sets and gorgeous period costumes that were brought up to date with a bright colourful palate. The orchestra was extensive and luxurious. Strauss’ rich, romantic and recognisable tunes blended the operatic singing and spoken word together effortlessly.
The show wasn’t without it’s minor faults, I found act two a little slow and I feel more could have been made of the little and basic choreography. Overall the WNO have succeeded in creating a lighthearted entry level opera which as exceeded in its task to bring an audience closer to opera.