Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus: an Iford Arts Production 18 & 19 May Bath Guildhall
About the production, by Simon Butteriss
In these troubled times, the expense of staging opera and operetta becomes ever more challenging and, increasingly, concert performances replace full productions. I’m a theatre animal and a diva hidden behind a music stand is no substitute for the real thing, frankly. Semi-staged often just means the diva comes on and off but is still hidden behind her stand when she sings. To add insult to injury, an actor behind a lectern not infrequently reads what seems to be the programme synopsis in a half-hearted attempt to help us envisage what the hell is going on.
How to harness these restrictions but still get a proper show? Persuading singers to memorise the roles is the first hurdle. But singers are pleasant creatures and I met with no resistance on that front so I put them into frocks, which they rather enjoyed and then they loved the idea of not having to learn – or perform – spoken dialogue so, with a spring in their step, they were ready to kick away their music stands. To avoid the actor in reading glasses at the lectern, I singled out one character in the piece who might plausibly know all about the other characters and gave him a dramatized narration – he would move among them, in character, and tells us all the secrets of everyone’s hearts as the story unfolds. The result, we hope, is that one has the impression of having seen a fully staged theatre piece, but delivered with concert hall resources.
I directed (and, you’ve guessed it, played the narrating character), in several operettas for the Philharmonia and it is my great delight that Iford Arts, with whom I spent two very happy seasons way back at the beginning of the century, thought the format would suit their purpose for the first festival of their exciting new adventure. With a salon orchestra and a cast of really first rate acting singers, we hope you will have as intimate and delightful an experience as ever you had.