Friday, December 12, 2008

Dallas Opera: "Die Fledermaus"

There was only one skunk on the road to Dallas this past Sunday and the portent held true. There were no ringing or vibrating cell phones, no watch alarms, and no out-of-place applause. The only skunk in the audience was the woman next to me wearing perfume.

Fortunately, there were large blocks of empty seats in the upper balcony making it easy for me to move up and avoid having another allergic reaction to her otherwise pleasant fragrance.

I moved to an empty lower row of only three seats and settled in to having a good time with this comic operetta by Johann Strauss II.

Although the first act is filled with chuckles from the interplay of the characters which was easy to follow because the performance was in English, I was nearly overcome by yawns and general boredom. The only bright spots were the voices of Chad Shelton, playing Alfred, and Ava Pine, playing Adele, who turned out to be the star of the show both in voice and in acting.

To be fair, Ana Maria Martinez, playing the part of Rosalinde, was recovering from the flu. Knowing this only makes me wonder how much better she might have been if she had been in full health. On the other hand, Miss Pine was recovering from a sinus condition.

Since many of the singers, excluding Pine, Shelton, and later Grant Neale, weren't easily projecting their voices over the orchestra or filling the hall with their voices, it made me consider that the smaller capacity of the new Winspear Opera House with its 2200 - 2300 seats, compared to the 3400 seats of the Fair Park Music Hall, would aid weaker voices. In any case, a voice like Pine's will be sure to knock our socks off in the smaller venue.

Happily, the pace picked up in the second act and the production improved through to the end of Act III. Neale, as Frosch, the jailer, was in fine voice and left me in stitches with his pratfalls and complaints about opera and Alfred's singing. Indeed, I'd be lying if I didn't admit how well Shelton sang and portrayed Alfred despite Frosch's complaints.

The only character I found disconcerting was Prince Orlofsky, played by Marianna Kulikova. I don't know if it was her somewhat erratic voice which got stronger as she went on or her makeup or the sight of the side of her right breast bulging through the side of her uniform. There were too many lopsided features for me to ignore in order to catch the laughs. Was she a woman playing a man as a trouser role suggests? Or was she a woman playing a man playing a woman in drag as a man?

Overall, it turned out to be a gentle and pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon, not an expensive nap as I feared it would become during Act I, although it wasn't worth the 4-1/2 hour drive except for Ava Pine's performance.

If this production is any indication, we need to keep an eye on Ava Pine because she might be going places.

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