Opera Saratoga opened its 50th anniversary season Wednesday night at the Spa Little Theatre with a buoyant production of Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus.”
It was a strong presentation all around with big voices, a versatile set, a solid orchestra and singers willing to go a campy mile to entertain the large crowd. After a long orchestral introduction under company artistic director/conductor Curtis Tucker, which detailed all the famous and insouciant melodies, the three act operetta began. Opening nights are always hard and for the first act, everyone seemed to be trying a bit too hard to feel their way for the right timing.
Still, the voices impressed. Tenor John Easterlin as Alfred, soprano Laurelyn Watson Chase as Adele, soprano Emily Pulley as Rosalinda, and baritone Kyle Pfortmiller as von Eisenstein did their magic. Balances with the orchestra and among the voices was good, diction of the English was generally excellent.
Garett Wilson’s set was adequate for the first act, but he was inspired in what he created for the second act. The scene was the palace with ornately painted walls, the orchestra lifted above stage level and a palette of warm browns, reds and creams echoed through Alan Michael Smith’s period costumes. The chorus was quite good, director Nelson Sheeley’s blocking was excellent.
By now the cast was fully into the show and the action flowed. Chase shone in her famous aria that showed off her agile coloratura. The anchor, however, was soprano Elizabeth Pojanowski in the trouser role of the Prince Orlofsky. She/he was suave, directed the players within the constraints of the role and sang with clarity and conviction. Pojanowski seemed very comfortable, even to directing Tucker as if he really were her band director. Strauss’ music was frothy, as bubbly as the champagne toasts.
The third act set in the jail wrapped the action up. Chase’s aria that she was fit to be a queen was a standout. Tucker got into the act and donned black and white prisoner garb. Sheeley rewrote some of the washerwoman role, which was originally for a man. As performed without singing by Kathryn Cowdrick, not only did Sheeley give her more to say, but he modernized the dialogue as if there were two centuries operating at the same time (Vienna 1890s and now).
The audience appreciated the humor although what she said had little to do with the plot. Maybe in operettas, you can get away with these kind of asides.
Other performances of “Die Fledermaus” are July 2, 5, and 10. Tonight, Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” will be presented with Albany Symphony Orchestra music director David Alan Miller in his company debut.