When I was asked to review Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, I was slightly worried: my operatic tastes tend towards the other Strauss – would the combination of daft plot and Viennese whipped cream be too much – would I have to suspend my diet as well as my disbelief? But then I remembered that Duchy Opera go “where no opera has been before”, so off to the Alverton's Great Hall (cathedral meets curtain emporium, but thankfully a good acoustic). Well, the set was rubbish! – literally a recreated recycling centre – the director's name (Helen Tiplady) should have been a clue here- which fitted nicely with the plot of deception and reinvention . Not a night in Vienna, then, and I soon realised that this was almost Gilbert and Sullivan territory, with the spoken dialogue as important as the music – the hand of the ever-versatile Keith Sparrow immediately apparent.
Some wonderful singing: Cheryl Brendish in full 'diva' mode, especially in her Hungarian Countess disguise, Bruce Cross as a slightly annoying Italian tenor-type (Gio Compario?), Ian Kinver convincing as the constantly outwitted Eisenstein. Lucy Parsons' Adele full of sparkle – the famous Laughing aria truly infectious, with Hazel Curnow well-matched as her sister; Evie Hidderley a winning Orlofsky. Keith Sparrow gave Falke just the right air of mischief, Ian Josling as the lawyer for once not in drag, but possibly channelling Groucho Marx, Paul Collins as the Prison Governor demonstrating the art of drunkenly removing an overcoat and trying to dance with it...a splendid team! In conventional performances, the party scene is usually the excuse for celebrity guest appearances, in this case a duet from Sue Lancaster and Saffron Jones, helpfully illustrated by the chorus.
The chorus sang splendidly, and acted too – from the moment they first began to scavenge in their binbags, the stage business was a huge delight (the knitting!), as was the imaginative employment of props – whoever would have thought a supermarket trailer could be such a perfect cell! The costumes were a mix of glam and trash, with the artful use of fluorescent items which looked great under the eclectic lighting. The little details hugely added to the enjoyment – the copy of the “Daily Jailer”, the 'selfies', the tissues handed to the audience in the mock grief duet, the prison guard in Minion glasses....meticulous preparation, but retaining a feel of spontaneity.
Massive praise is due to Music Director Paul Drayton on piano and his string players (Lucy Melluish and Naomi Carne) for a stirring overture and splendidly lilting accompaniment, even when the cast insisted on providing percussion. The final crazy dance saw members of the audience invited to dance among the dustbins – who could resist? There will be performances this week in Marazion and Liskeard – catch it if you can, and you will experience entertainment at its best – five stars plus!
West Briton article