I got the chance Sunday afternoon to catch Fresno State Opera Theatre’s “Die Fledermaus,” which was quite the contrast to the expansive Vintage Days fun-in-the-sun celebration unfolding directly outside the Music Building: inside, the merry tunes of Johann Strauss accompanying a Roaring ‘20s comic romp; outside, shorts and T-shirts, snow cones and a band on a stage. Isn’t university life a happy smorgasbord of experiences?
Here are eight things in particular I liked about the show, which came together nicely under Maria Briggs’ stage direction:
The way Rosalinde (played by a saucy Ashley Trembley) collapsed onto the chaise lounge while declaring “My grief will be heartrending” crisply to the beat. Trembley had sharp comic timing (and was in very nice voice) throughout the show, (mostly) avoiding the temptation to be overly broad in her comedy.
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The sweet tenor tones of Christian Cabral, as Alfred, the clueless teacher pursuing Rosalinde. His high notes were smooth, creamy and sounded effortless. When he sang “Love’s a dream that flies away,” the moment soared. His performance was a highlight.
The red-carpet unveiling of Artemie Okunev and Erica Arnold, the professional Los Angeles-area dancers who added a bit of zip to this college production in the second act. (Arnold, wrapped in a length of red fabric, was brought onto stage hoisted onto the shoulders of the male ensemble, then “unrolled” to make her appearance.) I liked how the Fresno State students at one point were worked into the choreography, making it a nice learning experience and adding a little spectacle.
Hunter Murphy’s goofy turn as a drunken jailer in the third act, especially when he’s tormented by the singing prisoner. Chipper and amiable, he made me laugh.
Thomas Loewenheim’s Fresno State orchestra in the opera’s famed “Champagne” song, adding lots of brawn. To be able to see this opera with a big, hearty orchestra added immeasurably to the experience. And I thought the balance of the orchestra with the amplification was quite good.
Lim Forgey, well known to the local opera and theater scene, as the blustery and hedonistic Eisenstein. His rousing vocals grounded the production and his professional polish and flair elevated the other performances.
Two nice voices: Jocelyn Boe as the chirpy Adele, Rosalinde’s maid; and Christopher Rodriguez as Falke, the comic instigator of the show.
The centrally located French horn player doused by confetti at the end of the show. He kept playing without the slightest twitch or any indication he’d just been inundated with small, shiny pieces of paper. He deserved to take a bow, too.
A few places for improvement: The amplification sound system and the subtitle setup had some issues. A few of the performances were too broad and slapstick, and the interludes of dialogue sometimes dragged. And in terms of staging: The university needs to find a more suitable venue to stage these productions (and, yes, I’m aware that there is a new performing arts center promised down the road), even if it means renting an off-campus venue. But overall, some very good voices and a solid job.