Editor's note: Laura Parkinson is part of Critic's Corner, an arts criticism program at Lawrence High School. She'll be offering a student perspective on several Lied Center productions this season.
Opera is an old art form, dating back more than 500 years - older even than the printing press - but it doesn't have to show its age. It has endured the test of time and still entertains audiences in new ways.
The Czech Opera Prague performed "Die Fledermaus" on Saturday at the Lied Center. The comic operetta by Johann Strauss could be enjoyed by the opera lover as well as those new to opera. The element that set it apart was its comedic timing and the way the performers tried to make an old art new. In other words, it was funny! Who knew?
"Die Fledermaus," which means "The Bat," centers on Dr. Falke's ploy to get back at Gabriel Von Eisenstein for leaving him in a bat costume on a park bench. Dr. Falke invites Eisenstein, his wife, Rosalinde, and their maid to a ball that evening to create some tension (even though Eisenstien is supposed to go to jail this very night). The evening is full of mistaken identities, plenty of champagne and jubilant music.
All the characters had fun with their roles in the fancy Vienna setting of the 1890s. The attempts to attend the party, made by the flirtatious maid Adele, and to cover up her identity once she is there, added life to a traditionally dull maid's role.
The characters fit their roles perfectly, and their comedic timing was impeccable. The funniest moments were when the cast deviated from the German language in which all the opera, except for these funny asides, was performed. When the superscript (an English translation of the libretto projected above the stage) said "fine delicacies," Eisenstien provided his own translation and said "fried chicken."
Attending three hours of opera can seem a daunting endeavor, and during the requisite long overture Saturday night, it seemed like it would not be worth while. However, once the curtain opened, time passed quickly through the evening of lively song and dance. Much of the singing revolved around either champagne or being too tipsy, all of which worked toward the prevailing mood of festive happiness.
The ending left the audience full of exultation and a desire to toast with the performers. And those who attended "Die Fledermaus" know the Czech Opera Prague deserved many toasts.
- Laura Parkinson is a senior at Lawrence High School.