Dig Baton Rouge

Courtly Intrigue

By Tara Bennett

The playful exuberance, social elegance and courtly intrigues of late 19th century Vienna will provide the setting for the Opéra Louisiane presentation of the Johann Strauss operetta “Die Fledermaus” in two performances at the Manship Theatre on May 2 at 7:30 p.m. and May 4 at 3 p.m.

“It is one of the most performed shows in the operatic world,” said stage director Dennis Jesse. “You will love every minute of it, and you’ll go home happy. The show is not complicated and so it’s easy to attach yourself to the fun and the comedic elements of the show.”

Considered as one of the great Viennese Operettas of its time, “Die Fledermaus” has been  regularly translated, updated and rewritten over the past 140 years, but Opéra Louisiane’s production will take place in 19th century Vienna with an English translation that sticks to the original piece.

“The translation we’re using is very close to the original German and so that makes it even more fun for us,” said Jesse. “I like it in its original form.”

“Die Fledermaus” is a three-act operatic farce that premiered in Austria in 1874. It presents the tale of Gabriel von Eisenstein, whose attempt to escape an eight-day jail term for a petty offense to a bureaucrat provides the prelude to an evening of mistaken identities, seductions, champagne indulgence and rousing song at Prince Orlofsky’s ball. The light-hearted resolution in the final act of the resentments and confusion among the principal players leaves Eisenstein in jail to serve his sentence and sing the operetta’s finale.

“It’s a very intricate plot woven around revenge, but it’s comedic and it’s witty and I love that about the piece,” said Jesse. “The music is very tuneful and so I think audiences can relate to it immediately you don’t have to read up on the composer or the opera before you go to see it. You can go enjoy it. It’s not that complicated and I think that’s why it remains popular. It’s incredibly tuneful and it has some of those incredible Strauss waltzes in there.”

“Die Fledermaus” will feature some of Opéra Louisiane’s favorite singers from past seasons in leading roles including Kathy Pyeatt, Brent Turner, Jessica Cates and Erin Roth. Other members of the cast include Patrick McNally, Marco Cammarota, Charles Moore and Geoffrey Kannenberg who will be joined onstage with the community chorus.

“The cast is amazing,” said Jesse. “They’re all excellent singers and actors.”

Opéra of Louisiane will also offer audience members a chance to sit onstage during the grand ball scene with local celebrities. For a tax deductible ticket price of $500, audiences will receive a photo with one of the celebrities, a premium seat in the audience and an invitation to a champagne reception in the lobby. Among the listed guest celebrities are jewelry designer Mignon Faget, local radio host Jim Engster, chef and host of “Bite and Booze” radio show, Jay Ducote, Baton Rouge Symphony’s Maestro Timothy Muffitt, LPB’s Beth Courtney, LSU Voice Professor and renowned tenor Robert Grayson and internationally-known businessman Jim Bernhard.

“One of the traditions in the show is special guests arrive at the ball and are announced and they either sing or they’re dressed as themselves and so we are doing that as well,” said Jesse.

Ticket prices range from $16.50 to $86.50 and may be purchased online at www.operalouisiane.com or by calling 225- 344-0334. Onstage grand ball scene seats with celebrities are available at $500 each. For more information about “Die Fledermaus,” contact Opéra Louisiane at 225-377-2029.

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