Opera on the Lake makes charismatic debut with Die FledermausReview
Opera on the Lake had their debut performance this week, in the Lakeside Pavilion on Lake Como in St. Paul. The audience was greeted by the extremely charismatic founder, star and director of the night, Anne Wieben. She gave a brief speech about her brand new company, as well as a plug for tax deductible donations, and off we went into Strauss’s Die Fledermaus.
The set and costumes were barebones, but the casts energy more than made up for it. The action opened on Alicia O’Neill as Adele half heartedly cleaning her employers living room. Ms. O’Neill was the vocal super star of the night, absolutely nailing her sustained high notes. They were so resonant, she had no need of the few microphones placed in front of the stage.
There were never any moments of disconnect.
Actually, the acoustics and sound levels were surprisingly good considering it was a pavilion, and that there were biking paths, etc., surrounding the performance. The orchestra was led by first violinist Marcoantonio Real-d’Arbelles, who occasionally stopped playing to conduct the ensemble. The pit was small but mighty with three strings and an electric keyboard. But they could be heard, and despite the players running throughout the audience and the large pavilion, there were never any moments of disconnect.
There was a liberal sprinkling of Minnesota-isms into the english dialogue (references to Juicy Lucy from the Nook, Lake Como, Nicollet Mall). Prince Orlofsky was sung by KrisAnne Weiss, in true Minnesotan style was a Russian oligarch with an obsession with Prince.
The cast was extremely comfortable in their surroundings, text and music.
John Allen Nelson (Dr. Falke) had a resonant baritone voice and colorful Hawaiian shirt. Gabriel was sung in an energetic fashion by Wesley Frye. Alex Adams-Leytes excelled in physical comedy while playing Frank. The company utilized the entire venue in their performance. Alfred, sung by Laurent Kuehnl, entered from the extreme back right corner of the pavilion and weaved his way through the audience. Characters would regularly go and stand at the bar to the right of the stage and “hang out” while the action was happening. This made for a very relaxed, fun and interactive atmosphere. In the Prince’s aria during the party scene, Falke brought up a random audience member to take part in the festivities. This was not a plant, the audience member was genuinely surprised and it was quite comical. The cast was extremely comfortable in their surroundings, text and music.
My one complaint was the lack of subtitles. Though the dialogue was rewritten/updated in english to make the drama more relatable to the audience, subtitles or translation sheets would have enhanced the performance. I really hope Ms. Wieben’s company has many seasons in the future; Opera on the Lake’s production and venue sparkles with life and excitement for the Twin Cities art scene! Bravo!