Now in its eighth year, Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater’s summer “Salon Opera” bursts into sparkling song on Wednesday, July 31, at the Katharine Cornell Theater for a five-performance run. Strauss’ light-hearted “Die Fledermaus” (aka “The Revenge of the Bat”) will be performed in the English version by Ted and Deena Puffer.
Consistent with the tradition of high-quality Taucher has established, she has assembled a cast that includes singers from the Metropolitan Opera and opera companies around the world. This season continues the practice of offering abridged operas, shortened and presented without intermission.
A comic romp, “Die Fledermaus” is often called an operetta, structured with spoken scenes alternating with thrilling, virtuosic musical turns. Audiences will recognize a number of the tunes, presented fully staged, in a story-theater style.
“There are no sets, no props, but great costumes,” Taucher said.
Highlighting the cast of world-class singers as the hapless Dr. Falke — “The Bat” — is
Daniel Scofield, who appeared here in 2017 and has been acclaimed for his performances of the baritone repertoire across the U.S. His erstwhile BFF Eisenstein is sung by Chris Carr, called a “confident, energetic performer,” whose credits include recent roles at Arizona Opera, Washington National Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival, and more.
Among the other illustrious singers, fresh from performances with major opera companies and music festivals are Pedro Barbosa as Alfred, soprano Jennifer Cherest as Adele, bass-baritone Nathan Stark as Frank. Singing Rosalinde is soprano Haley Sicking, applauded for her versatile performances in opera, concert, recital, musical theatre, jazz, and early and contemporary music.
Director Taucher had special praise for mezzo Erika Person who transforms herself into a man, Orlafsky, complete with thick Russian accent. A longtime veteran of Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theatre, she appeared here often and played the plucky on-air reporter/narrator Mindy Tashmoo in “Don Pasquale,” with a nod and wink to WCAI’s Mindy Todd.
“This cast represents a collection of the strongest group of professional singers of this generation,” commented Ed Bak, longtime music director of Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater. “We chose them because of their superlative musicianship and stage skills. We could not have put together a better cast.”
“The musical quality of the company is extremely high, and that’s because of Ed,” said Taucher.
Extraordinary eye-popping costumes are by Arthur Oliver, an internationally recognized costume designer whose creations have been seen in television, theater, film, dance, and opera on four major continents.
Initially presenting the opera shows at the Yard to enthusiastic response, Taucher staged them at Featherstone Center for the Arts for several summers. This season’s move to the historic Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven offers a perfect setting for audience and singers to get up close and personal, the intimate dynamic that is Taucher’s trademark.
“We’re using the best singers in the world,” said Taucher. “They have all done these roles before. But not only do they have to be the best singers, also they have to be able to act and move and want to do this kind of theater.”
As with previous operas, Taucher will keep “Die Fledermaus” short and sweet, with no intermission, and plenty of color and excitement packed into the svelte 75-minute production.
Making the opera compact, recitatives are edited out, with lush musical numbers highlighted. In most shows Taucher adds a colorful narrator who moves the plot along.
Taucher said one compelling reason to keep the running time trim is the bulging schedule overload for Vineyard audiences.
“If we had an intermission, people would leave to go to the next party,” she quipped, not entirely exaggerating.
The zany tale takes off from a costume party gone awry, when Dr. Falke, arrayed as a bat, overdoes the cocktails and his faithless drinking buddy Eisenstein deposits him in the center of Vienna to sleep it off. Mocked as “The Bat,” Falke vows to get back at Eisenstein. “The Revenge of the Bat” is off and running. Add extra-marital affairs, another costume ball, mistaken identity, and more drunks for an evening of light-hearted laughter and a surprisingly happy ending.
Taucher emphasized that although changes are made in the original operetta to fit the performance format, she is dedicated to keeping the essential intent of the composer and the work intact.
“We stick with the original intent, although the show is bare bones,” she said.
“I pride myself in thinking that if the composer came back to life he’d be happy enough to go out for a drink after the show.”
Taucher has staged many opera favorites, with one thing in common — “It’s always a comedy!”
“People think of opera as stuffy, but it’s big, broad comedy,” she said, “like watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon!” Taucher had no lofty agenda when picking “Die Fledermaus,” beyond that “it’s a comedy with great music, and just a fun thing these days is a good thing.”
Longtime opera buffs appreciate that Vineyard performances take place in smaller venues rather than the usual huge concert halls. “It’s nice to be close up to great singers,” she said. “You’re 10 feet away from them.”
“Die Fledermaus” opens Wednesday, July 31, for four 7:30 pm shows and one matinee on Sunday, August 4, at 4 pm. Audience members may purchase tickets for reserved seating and gala after-theatre supper parties with the cast: Thursday, August 1, at Mikado, and Sunday, August 4, at a private home. Performance-only tickets are available those dates as well.
For tickets and more information, visit wendytaucherdanceoperatheater.com.