full cast

Die Fledermaus

Welsh National Opera

Birmingham Hippodrome


As someone whose operatic knowledge is confined to familiar soundbites without any real context, I must confess to a little trepidation at the prospect of reviewing my first full length, grown up opera …or operetta in this case.

Opera is a genre that still struggles to shake off it’s somewhat stuffy connotations. It is seen, unfairly, as a reserve of a more mannered audience with the money to afford it and the time to sit through a three hour performance.

All rather unfair really as, on this evidence, at least, it’s a genre that deserves a much wider audience. True, its long - operas are more of a marathon than a sprint – but crucially it never feels it, and, away from the grandeur of Covent Garden, it’s also surprisingly affordable.

Johan Strauss’s comedic operetta plays around its themes of revenge and deception with a mix of score, and spoken dialogue, bringing references bang up to date (even Greggs and Pret a Manger get a mention) and incorporating gags and one liners that wouldn’t feel out of place in a panto.

All supported by a glorious set, bedazzling costumes and an orchestra that raises even a roof the size of the Hippodrome’s. A sumptuous and appealing blend, indeed.


Rhian Lois as Adele. Pictures: Bill Cooper

Its not for me to divulge the plot - heaven forbid! Suffice to say the usual suspects are all here and lavishly presented. The parlour maid who wants to go to the ball (more Panto links!); the wronged husband; the arduous suitor; the Keystone – ish Cops ; the foreign Prince. There’s even a spot of stand up comedy.

As you would expect from Strauss, the score favours a waltz or two but there is much more in a varied repertoire that delights the ear. Ballads are sweet and lyrically intense whilst rousing ensemble sections make hairs on the neck stand up.

Rhian Loss brings quirky charm as the Parlour Maid, Adele whilst Ben McAteer schmoozes with gusto as Dr Falke. Judith Howarth’s Rosalinde also impresses.

Perhaps the most unexpected ingredient is the stand up comedy, sharply delivered by Steve Spiers as the Gaoler, Frosch. In amongst the more traditional elements, this could have seemed a little incongruous but somehow it worked well in a nicely contrasting third act.

Huge credit too for Tim Reed’s multi functional set design and for the outstanding orchestra, conducted by James Southall.

If you a fan of Opera, you will love it. It is faithfully reproduced and brings a fresh dynamic to a modern audience.. If you are not necessarily a lover but have secretly always wanted to give it a try, this is a perfect place to start.

Uplifting, funny and just delightful . . . you’ll be glad you joined the party. Performed again 04-11-17.

Tom Roberts



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