Attending the opera might seem like an unlikely Saturday night activity for a McGill student. But if you’re looking for a taste of culture and are ready to take a trip back to Montreal’s 19th century high-society nightlife, then you just may want to buy yourself a ticket to Opéra de Montréal’s lively production if Die Fledermaus by Johann Baptist Strauss.
This whimsical operetta, traditionally set in Vienna, now takes place in 1890s Montreal. Resonating with national pride, the first ever entirely Quebecois cast dazzles in front of a glorious backdrop of the Mount Royal cross, shining through a living room window in the elegant home of socialite—and main character—Gabriel Eisenstein (Marc Hervieux).
As the show commences, a cackling, fiendish man named Falke (Dominique Côté) expresses his desire for revenge on Gabriel. Gabriel, the year before, had abandoned Falke after a wild costume party. Falke, still embarrassed about being left on the streets in his bat costume (hence the title Die Fledermaus, German for The Bat) assumes the role of puppeteer as he weaves an intricate and vengeful—albeit hilarious—web designed to humiliate his dear friend. Before long, he sweeps up Gabriel’s wife, Rosaline (Caroline Bleu), and their flighty but lovable housemaid, Adèle (Marianne Lambert) into his waltzing scheme.
This tumultuous comedy introduces an eclectic cast of characters: a bumbling, legally blind lawyer; an apathetic, effeminate prince; a sex-crazed music teacher; a comically intoxicated jailer; a few exotic dancers; and a cross-dressing cousin. By Act III, you’ll be in stitches, astounded at the madness that has unfolded in front of you. The champagne flows freely, and eventually, everybody ends up in jail, still waltzing away to Strauss’ bounding melodies.
The enchanting talent in the production is undeniable. Much of the cast is internationally renowned, and all members have built extensive careers in opera and theatre throughout Quebec and Canada.
As important as the actors are, the foundation for their brilliance is the boisterous, captivating music that sails up from the orchestra pit. Johann Baptist Strauss, one of the world’s greatest Romantic composers, is known as “The Waltz King,” and deservingly so. The three-beat cycle complements the smooth, flourishing tones of the vocalists, and makes you want to tap your feet from the moment the overture starts to the last note of the finale. The Viennese-style rhythm encapsulates a timeless joy. In fact, the choreography sneaks in a surprise piece modern flair with a quick, tasteful dance reference to “Gangnam Style.”
As operas go, Die Fledermaus is not only digestible, but will leave you craving more. The majestic opera house at Place des Arts serves as a change of pace for a Saturday night; the opera is a cultural destination that all McGill students should experience
Die Fledermaus runs January 26, 29, and 31, and February 2 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts. Student tickets $30 when purchasing two shows or more.