is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Mel Brooks of Opera, Die Fledermaus Opens Tonight

UK Opera Presents Strauss Classic
There is no "I" in Ensemble)

by Kim Thomas

Opera is when a guy gets stabbed and instead of bleeding, he sings.
-- Ed Gardner (1905-63)

Aria Ready for a Laugh?
This season of theatre and opera in our hometown has offerings for the serious and the silly - and how lucky are we to be able to enjoy Die Fledermaus at the Opera House one week, then a spine-tingling thriller like Studio Players' Wait Until Dark the next?

On Thursday, UK Opera proudly presents Die Fledermaus, perhaps the world's best loved comedic operetta.  There is a champagne-swilling cast of characters, including a beautiful middle-class wife with a doubtful past, a passionate Italian tenor, and respectable husbands who can't resist pert parlor maids with theatrical ambitions. UK Opera promises Die Fledermaus will be full of surprises, so don't miss the party of the year!

The setting is a New Year's Eve party with "issues" that serve as the basis for the hilarious and irresistibly tuneful opera "Die Fledermaus (The Bat)" by Johann Strauss Jr., the so-called Waltz King of Imperial Vienna, where parties were a specialty.  Viennese composers such as Strauss knew how to tickle your funny bone, and in speaking with some of the present day participants of his most popular work, it is clear that UK Opera's presentation  promises to start a laugh riot when it opens at the Opera House on March 11. 

Amanda Balltrip (whose a capella rendition of national anthem brought the house down at the UK-Florida game this past Sunday at Rupp Arena) is playing Rosalinda, which is one of two female leads. Balltrip explains, "Rosalinda is the wife of Gabriel von Eisenstein, who is a lawyer. She's the drama queen of the show. I have never sung Fledermaus before, except for the well-known "Laughing Song" that Adele (Rosalinda's chambermaid, and the other female lead) sings in Act II. There are two difficult things about singing Rosalinda: 1) Managing the technical singing difficulties that come with the role. It's low, high, fast, slow... but, it's a welcome challenge. 2) Keeping a straight face! Die Fledermaus is like the Mel Brooks of opera, in my opinion. The comedy is stylized in such a way that everything is funny, if you pay attention to what's happening. Unlike most operas, this operetta features a lot of spoken dialogue, you really have to keep your acting chops up."

Balltrip adds that since it is a comedic opera, rehearsals have been especially full of uncontrollable laughter. "Well, the cast as a whole seems to struggle in particular with the spoken-role of Frosch in Act III. Michael Friedman, who's playing Frosch (the drunken jailer), hasn't cracked a single time. Yet, he's cracked all of us up! For him to not sing a single note in the whole opera, he could certainly steal the show. I have to say, however, that Fledermaus is an ensemble show and you could truthfully say that about any of the leading roles."

Amanda is performing on Friday and Saturday night, accompanied by the UK Symphony Orchestra, who "will be playing under the direction of John Nardolillo, and they're sounding great, as usual!"

"Also, we just found out this weekend that UK Opera Theatre will be recording this production of Die Fledermaus with Albany records! The opera is double cast, and we don't know who will sing on the recording yet, but it's another wonderful opportunity for UKOT. We'll record sometime after spring break and it will be available later this year."

"Oh, and... it is a German opera, but will be sung in English with supertitles. If you've never been to the opera before, this is a great one to start with."

Mark Kano is singing the role of Alfred, the Italian tenor, in Die Fledermaus; Alfred is the lover and singing teacher of Rosalinda. Kano gives away a little glimpse of the plotline,  "Alfred pretends to be Eisenstein, Rosalinda's husband, and serve one night of his jail sentence. I'm very greatful to have the opportunity to sing this role with UKOT. Alfred's character has been a lot of fun to portray. He sings excerpts from famous opera arias throughout the opera and overall is a big ham."

Kano has performed several roles with UK Opera Theatre, in The Magic Flute, La Traviata, Carmen, and the role of the Witch in Hansel & Gretel. He also has sung with Nashville Opera, Kentucky Opera, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Opera. His first exposure to opera was in high school at the Tennessee Governor's School for the Arts. "I then decided to major in voice performance at Middle Tennessee State University, where I was very active in the opera program.

This summer, Kano will be singing the role of Eisenstein in the same opera, Die Fledermaus, in Rome, Italy with the Operafestival di Roma. "This will be an exciting and wonderful opportunity. I love performing, but teaching voice to young singers is a true passion of mine as well. In addition to singing Eisenstein, I will also be teaching voice lessons to young participants in the program."

Manuel Castillo (who starred in Summerfest's production of Once On This Island, directed by Margo Buchanan, who is the assistant director for Die Fledermaus) will also be performing in the Rome production of Die Fledermaus, but is sitting this one out - he is, however, standing by in case he's needed to fill the role of Alfred. "I am not singing unless the two Alfreds (Mark Kano or Gavin Wigginson) get sick or cannot perform for any reason."

Castillo believes the show "will be very fun to see and watch, sung in English with dialogues in English as well. The role I would be singing is named Alfred, he is an Italian opera singer that is in love with the now married Rosalinda. "During rehearsals many funny things happen, mistakes and stuff like that, the whole company is enjoying the production, you should come and watch it!"

Taylor Eldred also appeared in Once On This Island, and is singing in the chorus and points out that the chorus will be having a rollicking good time while all the dramedy is happening. "It's really funny, I think everyone will enjoy it. It's so fun and the chorus has fun little part.... we're all dressed as opera characters!!! It's great to sing. Such fun music!"

Performances of Die Fledermaus by the
University of Kentucky Opera will be presented
March 11th, 12th and 13th, 2010
Evenings 7:30pm
Saturday Matinee 2:00pm

Tickets $10-$34 plus handling fee are available at SCFA Box Office - 859-257-4929

More information may be found by visiting


Printed version of my article is available - 
please look for the big red Ace Weekly stands
and pick up a copy!

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