Review: Ellen Kent’s Die Fledermaus at Hull City Hall

Published: Friday 15th April 2016 by Tom Drinkall

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I went to the Hull City Hall showing of Johann Strauss’ operetta Die Fledermaus with the sum of my opera experience being R. Kelly’s hip-hopera “Trapped in the Closet” (and of course, the subsequent Weird Al parody).

For those not in the know, Die Fledermaus was the first of three Ellen Kent productions on consecutive nights at the Hull City Hall, followed by Tosca (Friday, April 15) and Carmen (Saturday, April 16).

Die Fledermaus seems an unusual story for an opera performance, a relatively light farce comedy featuring a high society ball, disguises, affairs, and revenge. Yet the music is not melodramatic or heavy, and is in keeping with the show’s light and comedic feel.

The story begins with Gabriel von Eisenstein being sentenced to eight days in prison for shooting grouse on someone else’s land. A friend invites him to postpone his sentence to attend Prince Orlofsky’s grand ball, which he accepts.

Unbeknown to him, his long-suffering wife will be in attendance dressed as a Romanian aristocrat, and his Maid Adele will also sneak in, posing as a baroness. Also in attendance will be the man who was supposed to escort him to prison, and a bored Prince revelling in the confusions and faux pas.

The cast members all have remarkable skill both with comedy and singing, and the orchestra is highly impressive too. The costumes and set are also a visual delight, and the chorus members are a perfect addition.

The show was also adapted especially for Hull, with the odd little Kingston-upon-in-jokes and even a cameo from the Lord Mayor herself as a party guest.

It was pleasant and surprising to see a medium stereotyped for seriousness and melodrama have fun and celebrate a sense of mischief.

Unlike, I suspect, the majority of the audience, I was coming to this as a newcomer. The show challenged a lot of preconceived notions I had about opera (no binoculars on sticks, no women in Viking helmets, no R. Kelly) and showed me that it can be an approachable, engaging medium that doesn’t require a lifetime of experience or a thorough knowledge of the story to enjoy.

I would recommend Die Fledermaus for a fun and unusual night out, a show that invites you along to the party and doesn’t require a long list of previous experiences to enjoy. Give it a go if you’ve wanted to check out opera for a while, or if you’re simply up for trying something new.

Review by Ciara Ruane

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Published: Friday 15th April 2016 by Tom Drinkall

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