Opera AACC presents captivating production of 'Die Fledermaus'

Baltimore Sun

Opera AACC, in its eighth season, is presenting five performances of Johann Strauss' operetta, "Die Fledermaus (The Bat)," an onstage party celebrating life, love and the joys of champagne.

"What a great experience this production has been, for almost 50 AACC students to work along with professionals and community artists to create a classic work of art," said AACC Performing Arts chairman and Opera AACC founder Douglas Byerly at a recent rehearsal. " 'Die Fledermaus' is hilarious and at the same time it has some of the most beautiful music ever written for the stage. And it is trickier than most people think."

Having attended parts of two rehearsals at the Pascal Center for Performing Arts, I saw the commitment of cast and crew and their joy in working together. They have created captivating theater, featuring Strauss' lilting waltz melodies and amusing 19th-century Viennese bourgeois intrigues.

I heard the last bars of "Adele's Song" being rehearsed by Opera AACC favorite Joy Greene before entering the theater to find a dazzling metal filigree set filling the stage with Viennese splendor. It was originally designed by Luke Cantarella for Peabody's "La Traviata" a few seasons back. The costumes were created by the late legendary designer John Lehmeyer for Baltimore Opera's 2002 "Fledermaus" and used only for the original series of performances.

In addition to soprano Greene (Adele), there are other original eight-year members of the AACC company - Marie Talios (Ida), Larry Ellinghaus (Frosch), Edwin Wintermute (Guard) and Charlotte Taylor (Chorus). Principals are Natalie Conte as Rosalinda, Catrin Davies as Prince Orlofsky, Chris Correlli as Dr. Blind, J. Austin Bitner as Baron von Eisenstein, Nicholas Houhoulis as Alfred, Christopher Rhodovi as Dr. Falke and Byerly as Colonel Frank.

They will bring "Die Fledermaus" to life under the stage direction of James Harp (director of opera and education for the Lyric Opera House) and artistic direction of Byerly.

The AACC orchestra will be conducted by music director Anna Binneweg, and choreography has been created by AACC dance director Lynda Fitzgerald. Stage manager Tania Rosa Bindhoff is an AACC graduate, now in her last semester of the music degree program at Towson University.

"Die Fledermaus" premiered in Vienna in 1874 and continues to celebrate 19th-century Viennese life with music and laughter. The story revolves around a party full of drinking. Afterward, Gabriel von Eisenstein leaves Dr. Falke asleep on a park bench, dressed as a bat for several members of Viennese society to see.

Falke's humiliation prompts him to devise a scheme that entangles Eisenstein's wife, Rosalinda, her chambermaid Adele, visiting Italian tenor Alfred, the prison governor and others in a series of comic complications marked by mistaken identity and infidelities.

At a recent rehearsal, young tenor Houhoulis had comically captured the self-absorbed tenor Alfred, singing so well that it was easy to see why he had recently been chosen to sing in "The Flying Dutchman" Metropolitan Opera Chorus.

Conte displayed a lovely soprano voice and strong comic skills as Rosalinda. Others in the scene were tenor Bitner as Eisenstein and baritone Rhodovi, who has sung leading roles as resident artist with the Annapolis Chorale.

Harp not only drew fine vocal performances from these four singers, but created an ideal atmosphere for them to refine their comedic skills.

If you go Performances will be at 8 p.m. Jan. 29 and Feb. 4, 5 and 8, and at 3 p.m. Jan. 31. Seats can be reserved by calling the box office at 410-777-2457 or online at www.aacc.edu/performingarts. Tickets are $20 general admission; $12 seniors, groups and students. Tickets for AACC students are $5.

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