Cher Public

Present prescriptive

Photo: Robert Workman/ENO“Director Christopher Alden destroys everything Strauss’s operetta stands for…. the work’s underbelly may be serious, but on stage ‘bitterness must turn to bliss in sweet forgetfulness’…. Die Fledermaus should be as much an exercise in escapism for us today as it was for its first audience in 1874…. Above all it needs to make us laugh and go out humming its tunes.” [Financial Times]

  • la vociaccia

    Why didn’t John Berry, ENO’s artistic director, pull the plug when he saw it last year in Toronto?

    Because Tamara Wilson sang Rosalinde and she’s fabulous

    • Often admonished

      Why didn’t John Berry, ENO’s artistic director, pull the plug when he saw it last year in Toronto?

      Both of you assume he is an artistic director.

      • don alfonso

        Why didn’t John Berry, ENO’s artistic director, pull the plug when he saw it last year in Toronto?
        Because A, They couldn’t afford a new one of their own.
        B, Maybe Berry thought it was a great production in Toronto.
        The Aldens both D and C are usually a safe-ish ticket. ie. if you don’t get a hit at least you get a controversy. A shame as the ENO could really do with something to pull the audiences in right now, otherwise they might be going the way of NYCO.

    • la vociaccia

      I was being sarcastic. I have no stake in this matter; I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Alden production

  • Buster

    A one dimensional Fledermaus sounds very dull to me. Most productions I have seen were, unfortunatley.

    Would like to see this production a lot. Or this one:

    • Feldmarschallin

      That is the Neuenfels from Salzburg right? Great production. I also saw a very good one from Dresden by Gunther Krämer in which Diana Damrau sang Adele.

      • Buster

        Yes it is. Love Hartelius here.

      • A. Poggia Turra

        I saw the prima of this production in August 2001. The sight of bejeweled dowagers and their 100 year old fossil husbands yelling “scheiss” at Neuenfels at the curtain call told me that he (and Mortier) had hit the target dead-center.

        There’s a lot of stinking rot under that fizzy exterior if you dare to look, and Neuenfels and company did (and they also made brilliant use of the Felsenreitschule staging area, a space which has defeated many other directors.

        • manou

          And yet “bejeweled dowagers and their 100 year old fossil husbands” are the ones whose sought after largesse keeps many opera companies afloat….or sometimes not, as we have seen lately.

        • turings

          Since dowagers’ husbands are typically dead, I can only assume they were toting their fossilised remains around in (bejeweled) jars. Perhaps this anti-social behaviour is why you seem so keen on them having a horrible time at the opera?

  • werther

    i did not see the production, and I don´t know if it is good or bad, but i find it so incredibly arrogant when a critic tells you what the piece SHOULD be about. And stating something like “Die Fledermaus should be as much an exercise in escapism for us today as it was for its first audience in 1874” ranks probably among the most idiotic things i have ever read in a music-review. ever.

  • cosmodimontevergine

    Why does La Cieca show one of the worst English reviews of this production. Not all the critics hated it (for example the Express liked it -recently our distinguished doyenne lambasted the London critics for their misconceived reviews of Bieito’s Fidelio? Why should their judgement be any better for Alden’s Fledermaus?

  • I can’t decide whether “Serious Underbelly” should be the name of a BBQ joint, a day care center, or a hedge fund.

    • oedipe

      No, it’s a brand of intimate apparel.

    • By the way, isn’t it high time we started calling it “Strauss and Genée’s opera”? Richard Genée had as much to do with the finished musical product as Strauss did.

    • Belfagor

      Corsetry, I’d say…….

  • MontyNostry

    In principle, I thought this show sounded quite interesting, because I just don’t see why people tend to think of Fledermaus as a sweet little sparkling show -- it’s pretty misanthropic and built almost entirely on deceit. That doesn’t mean it’s not funny, of course. But it sounds as though the whole thing is rather clumsy and not very well performed — and the Coliseum is such a bloody hangar of a theatre that I doubt anything much gets across the orchestra pit.

    • redbear

      The theater works about as well as any of the super-sized theaters American audiences get, in my experience. “It needs to make us laugh and go out humming the tunes!?” Where has he been these past several decades? I remember a Paris production where the turning chorus, during “Bruederlein, Schwesterlein” morphed into a swastika.

      • MontyNostry

        Are you sure that wasn’t The Producers, redbear?

      • A. Poggia Turra

        redbear, that was the Colline Serreau (sp?) production -- it’s on Youtube:

    • Belfagor

      I guess you’ve not been to the Met………

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Funny, I know the Coliseum has a patchy acoustic, but I’ve never thought it feels terribly big when in the audience.

      I am disappointed Sporsen hasn’t had more of a success, I think it’s a very special voice.

      • MontyNostry

        It’s not so much that the Coliseum is big, Cocky, but there is something dead and impersonal about it — as though the stage were behind a glass screen. I feel no contact with what’s happening on stage. By contrast, Covent Garden always feels more immediate, even in places where the acoustic is poor (eg Stalls Circle) or where you are far from the stage.

        • Jack Jikes

          The equivalent site (Stalls Circle) at Opera Garnier has a deadly acoustic.

          • MontyNostry

            There is no ‘ring’ on either the voices or the orchestra in the bad seats in the Stalls Circle. Even the good seats aren’t too good.

    • Henry Holland

      For touring rock & pop acts, here in Los Angeles Staples Center is the go-to venue. Like the Coliseum, the roof is really tall and the sound just evaporates up there.

      I’ve only been to the Coliseum twice (for a Doktor Faust that almost got canceled due to low attendance and years later, the ghastly Lehnoff “boulder” production of Parsifal) and the sound was very poor. It simply made any attempt to get the words across in English futile.

      Any chance ENO could move back to Sadler’s Wells?

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        Sadler’s Wells, though not in a back water, is far less convenient than the Coliseum, which is slap bang in the centre of London. I would probably never go to see ENO if they were up there.

        • armerjacquino

          Plus, it’s too small to make a year-round season viable.

  • DonCarloFanatic

    Oh, please, someone tell me that the Met’s new Fledermaus will be fun, light-hearted, and sparkling. I’m going on New Year’s Eve and that’s not a night for lugubrious productions.

    Drawing room comedy is always built on deceit. “Ozzie and Harriet” on early television was of the same ilk, but nowhere near witty.

  • Will

    From the Intermezzo review:
    “The final death blow is dealt by an embarrassingly dreadful translation from Stephen Lawless and Daniel Dooner, unsingably couched in greeting-card rhymes.”

    The coupe de grace in about 95% of the Fledermice I have seen in a theater or heard on the radio. IF there is any hint of the storied wit and sophistication I have heard praised in the original German/Austrian libretto, I have never encountered it in translation. I wish the new MET production well in that regard.

    As to the ENO production being drab, the Intermezzo photos show a riot of color, pardon colour, good costumes and some nice design touches; the big bed is quite lovely (and the guy in it contributes majorly to the decorative effect). I obviously cannot speak to Alden’s concept as I have not seen the production but I will say that the entire operetta/belle epoch/Empire culture was dancing on the edge of calamity and if Alden has managed to but a valid thought into Fledermaus’s otherwise empty champagne and adultery-filled head, good on him.

    • manou

      Thank you for the extra (British) vowel in colour, but the “coupe” needs to lose an “e” (unless it is filled with champagne, of course). And I shall be very lenient as far as the accent circonflexe is concerned.

      • MontyNostry

        manou, have you noticed how pretentious f***ing Brits refer increasingly (verbally) to a ‘coup de gras’? Something to do with living off the fat of the land?

        • oedipe

          Coupe de gras? Yum, yum!

        • On the other hand, I read not long ago of a non-Francophone in a French restaurant ordering, “Je voudrais un coup de champagne.” You have to hope they took it out of the bottle first.

        • Grane

          I used to work for a guy who said “coup de resistance,” pronounced to rhyme with persistence. Now I say it. It’s stuck.

      • Coupe de Grace.

        • Krunoslav

          Motor du jour!

        • Is it me or does that look like Gerard Depardieu wearing a turban?

          • MontyNostry

            We all know that the only person allowed to wear turbans on this site (unless playing one of Rossini’s oriental gentlemen) is Leontyne Price.

            • Don’t forget Jessye. She did win the “headgear” category of the Diva contest after all. LOL

            • MontyNostry

              My dear, I had quite forgotten that turbans are all the rage in Owgoosta, Georgiah.

            • Oh sure! Just ask James Brown.

        • oedipe

          Well, le coupé de Grace a une belle coupe.

          • manou

            Il ne faudrait surtout pas se lancer dans les diverses acceptions du mot “coup”.

    • Surely the “coupe de grâce” belongs not in Fledermaus but in Parsifal?

      • manou


  • oedipe

    Here’s something I think you might enjoy, Manou:

  • Gualtier M

    I have a problem with criticizing criticism of productions I haven’t seen. Clearly La Cieca feels that the British press does not hold Calixto Bieito and Christopher Alden in the same high regard as she does. However, it just may be that these productions are just not working.

    In the case of the “Fidelio” one of our posters noted that the personenregie -- often a deciding factor whether the regie concepts translates into believable action onstage that reaches and convinces the audience -- was lacking. Emma Bell and Stuart Skelton either didn’t receive enought attention from Bieito or were unreceptive -- unlike Anja Kampe and Jonas Kaufmann in its original production.

    As anyone who is a veteran of the Freres Alden oeuvre -- when it works it can be brilliant -- i.e. the NYCO “Don Giovanni” a few years ago or “A Quiet Place” also NYCO. Or it can be a horrible, self-indulgent exercise in directorial misdirection and excess. It can work, or it can fail. It usually isn’t boring but it can be -- both brothers have a bag of regie tricks that they dig into time and again.

    I think it is the responsibility of the critic to review what is actually up there onstage -- not his opinion (good or bad) of the director or the school he represents. Does it work? Does it communicate with the music the essence of the work? What does it make you feel? How do the changes the directior has made strengthen or weaken the piece?

    So until I see the show in question live in the theater I am not going to call any critic a “prat”, “overeducated” or

    • Gualtier M

      retrograde, blind, overconservative or whatever.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Well that’s just it, isn’t it -- if Bieto failed to inspire sufficient buy-in from his cast during the rehearsal process, and they were going through the motions as directed but without emotionally connecting with what he wanted, then it was never going to come across well to the audience, including the critics.

      I don’t know if this was the case or not, but it remains a possibility that what the critics saw they didn’t like for this reason or any number of other perfectly valid reasons that have nothing to do with knee jerk reactions, an unwillingness to think about things or resistance to anything other than their own idea of how a Fidelio production should be.

      • it remains a possibility that what the critics saw they didn’t like for this reason or any number of other perfectly valid reasons that have nothing to do with knee jerk reactions

        How careless, then, of these critics to include their knee-jerk reactions as such prominent features of their reviews. Someone really should have told them that starting off a critique by pontificating on the one and only possible meaning that can be assigned to a work of art might be misinterpreted by the reader as pontificating on the one and only possible meaning that can be assigned to a work of art.

        • Regina delle fate

          Clark doesn’t start off his critique pontificating on the one and only meaning that can be assigned to Fledermaus. Any prescription for a good Fledermaus that he makes comes well down his review and he makes general points about what a good performance of Fledermaus should contain -- he nowhere suggests that he has the key to “the one and only possible meaning”. Anyway, it had good reviews in the Evening Standard and the Daily Express. Luckily we have lots of press in London reflecting a wide divergence of opinions, although this one seems to have garnered mostly unfavourable notices.

          • Talking about the Fidelio reviews, not this specific Fledermaus review, though, again, Clark is prescriptive: this is what Fledermaus “should be,” this Fledermaus does not tick off the boxes I have arbitrarily created; therefore this Fledermaus is rubbish. I don’t see how you can read it any other way.

            • Todd

              Totally. I was against you on the Fidelio premise, La Cieca, but this one I think you’re spot on. And it’s not only a matter of a reviewer’s arbitrary take on the work; it’s also a take that wants to consign operettas to a second-class ghetto.

      • Regina delle fate

        Both of these productions (Fid & Fled) clearly set out with noble intentions to throw a fresh slant on the works in question, and they look rather spectacular, but both seem undercast and underrehearsed and however well-meaning they both struggle to make an impact as theatre. La Cieca is probably right to suggest that critics should try to be as open-minded as possible, but the fact that the production doesn’t do what the FT thinks it should do for the piece doesn’t invalidate his view that it isn’t very well done. Alden’s work ENO includes a brilliant Partenope and a fascinating, controversial, and much disliked by audiences, Midsummer Night’s Dream. This didn’t seem like one of his best shows and Fledermaus is a difficult piece to bring off in a theatre the size of the Colly with some fairly inexperienced singers trying, and failing, to project sparkling dialogue. The “Bieto” Fidelio, looked like a lazy rehash by a house director of a production which I mostly enjoyed in Munich. Apparently , Bieto was hardly there for rehearsals. Seems pointless to bring in a Bieto production without Bieto to direct it.

        • MontyNostry

          Perhaps because it is a Bieito rather than a Bieto production ;-)

          • Regina delle fate

            Ooops -- sorry!

            • Regina delle fate

              I always miss one of the “i”s out of Nelly Miriciou, too.

  • I did see this Fledermaus and it’s the only time I’ve seen the piece so I have no other productions to compare to. Yes, Chris Alden highlights some darker elements of the story but reading this review, one would think that the production lacks any humour of sense of fun. There were moments in this production when I genuinely laughed out loud. And while there is a definitely dark undercurrent to the production, there’s still plenty of colour, flair and fun as well. The costumes for one thing are outrageously fun and flamboyant.

    The main directorial thrust of the production is that this is a society cluelessly heading off the edge of a cliff. This is all rather well executed through the first acts.

    Where the conceit works less well is in the third act. IMO, the third act is the weakest part of the opera anyway. Having Frosch be a severe, sardonic character rather than a colourful drunk really emphasises the point that the “party is over”. It’s quite an interesting take on the character but it doesn’t help enliven the proceedings or inject life into a weak final act.

    Still, overall, I found the production to be a success.

    • Todd

      Curious, Kashania: how was the orchestra? I’m going to be in London while it’s running and could go--in addition to the Herheim Vepres--but on the ENO website’s trailer the orchestra sounds like a student orchestra on a bad day. Oddly enough, I can take bad (if not out of tune) singing better than I can take bad orchestral playing.

      • The COC Orchestra is superb so they sounded great. And Johannes Debus (our music director) displayed a nice feel for the music.

        • Todd

          Thanks, kashania, I may go after all.

          • Just so there’s no confusion, I saw the production when it premiered in Toronto. I have no idea how the ENO orchestra/cast sound.

            • manou

              Happy Birthday kashania!

            • rapt

              Vive la Balance!

            • Thanks! I’ll be sharing a toast with Ruggiero later this evening.

            • antikitschychick

              HAPPY BDAY Kashania!!

              Hope you enjoy it to the fullest :-D



            • rapt

            • Camille

              Dearest Kashania!

              May I add a wish to you for many happy returns of this day?
              If there was ever a perfect example of La Balance at its most just and fair, it would certainly be thou, o principe di persia!

              Best and kindest wishes from

            • Thank you, Camille chere. It’s not easy keeping these Libran scales balances but someone’s gotta do it. Thank you all for your kind words. Really very lovely of y’all.

      • shoegirl

        I thought the orchestra sounded gorgeous on the opening night.

        I used to sit and watch my father play Alfred from the wings as a child so this production turned it upside down for me! However, it was very funny, and what reviews don’t tell you was that in the third act while Frosch is doing his Herr Flick thing, almost every member of the ensemble was breaking away behind his back and doing something they shouldn’t be. I thought it was a lot of fun and livened up a genre my mother refers to as “frilly panty musicals.”

        The singing was good too. I had a great night out.

  • Amnerees

    I have seen productions by the brothers Alden only in the US, but based on the ones I’ve seen I’d say that they should stick with opera and stay away from operetta. Their coarse, deliberately stupid notions kill the very spirit of these works. Their work at Glimmerglass has been tasteless and misguided. The Perichole that closed City Opera’s last season was the perfect demonstration of this. The director clearly did not trust the work: a witty, risqué, and sophisticated operetta with a beautiful score. The result drove another nail into the City Opera coffin.

    • cosmodimontevergine

      Only Christopher Alden has worked at Glimmerglass and he only did one operetta, Offenbach’s Bluebeard, which was neither coarse nor stupid. As for the City Opera’s La Perichole, both critics and audience loved it.

      • Krunoslav

        The BLUEBEARD was the usual louche nonsense, maybe not stupiid but oretty coarse.

        The crtiics i read hated PERICHOLE and so did I- C. Alden at his very worst. At his best he is inspired, but tome the comedies almost always misfire, with sledgehammer Jerry Lewis overkill.

  • mountmccabe

    operaramblings saw the production in Toronto (in German) a couple times and wrote about it. He quite liked it, also noting “All the zany, frothy comedy one could wish for in a Fledermaus is there…”

  • mjmacmtenor

    Is it just me? Something about Andrew Shore’s face makes me think of Nathan Lane.

    • -Ed.

      It’s just you.
      Edgaras Montvidas’ pose, however, causes me to think about something. But it isn’t Nathan Lane. (OMG! thank you thank you! too kind, too kind, I’ll be here all week)

      One wonders how a director could possibly destroy everything an operetta stands for. Come to think, I didn’t even realize operettas stood for things. Or is Die Fledermaus an acronym?

  • The competition has been fierce, but I think we may have found the stupidest music journalist in all of England. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Ivan Hewett

    Yet the salaries simply sailed upwards regardless. It’s the same story at Minnesota, which is at 10th place in terms of pay (or “compensation” as they insist on calling it. Why does a musician need to be “ compensated” for doing what he/she loves?)

    Top that!

    • armerjacquino

      It’s so badly written that at first I thought he was complaining about the idea of musicians being paid, full stop. It was only on the second or third reading that I realised he’s only semantically objecting to the word ‘compensation’- a point to slim as to be not worth making.

      • armerjacquino

        ‘so’ slim. Fat fingers.

    • Henry Holland

      Be fair, he gets a good kicking in the comments section.

      I think this is the nub of the gist, from commenter phildk2010:

      London, which has about twice the population of L.A., has how many orchestras? LSO, London Phil., Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic, BBC Symphony… the list goes on. If you closed all of these London orchestras and re-formed one single orchestra in its place, that orchestra could also reasonably pay each of its players £75,000. Chicago and New York each also have only one full-time salaried symphony orchestra (again not including opera and ballet). Even Manchester has two symphony orchestras (Hallé and BBC Phil.) with Liverpool and its Royal Liverpool Phil. only 45 minutes down the road

      • Henry Holland

        Apologies for the excessive bolding.

      • antikitschychick

        If you don’t mind me asking Henry, how exactly does one go about bolding one’s text on this here site?

        • Henry Holland

          use tags in this format:

          Use i for italics

          • Henry Holland


            Use put a b in there, no space, i for italics.

            Preview button please, La Cieca.

        • manou

          You type “open pointy bracket” (shift/comma) b “close pointy bracket” (shift/full stop) text and to close you do the same but put an extra slash / before the b.

          Example using normal brackets: (b) text (/b).

          Italics are the same except you put i instead of b.

          • antikitschychick

            like [this[?

            • antikitschychick

              dang it I did something wrong LOL…

              2nd attempt:

              work damn it

            • manou

              Cracked it!

            • antikitschychick

              GOT IT! Was totally over thinking it the first time…grazie mille manou for your thorough explanation (and thanks be to Henry as well for his noble yet confuscating efforts) :-P

    • laddie

      A variation on a theme: “How can I possibly trust you, you only do this [counseling] because you get paid!” My answer is usually, “yes, I do get paid to listen to you.” Whooosh.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Time Machine (1958)

  • Amnerees

    Christopher Alden also directed Sousa’s The Glassblowers--an operetta--at Glimmerglass in 2002. The later Elvis-themed Bluebeard was an amusing idea, but Alden failed to carry his concept through. (I admit this is a problem with many “updated” modern productions.) He substituted shtick and vulgarity, some of which he repeated in his La Perichole for City Opera. The night I attended La Perichole at City Center, the audience streamed out all through the performance. The audience members I spoke with later could not understand what was going on, even with supertitles. I could, alas, but what Alden had done with Offenbach’s operetta it was so stupid I thought it useless to explain.