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Die Fledermaus review at West Green House – ‘a smartly performed art deco update’

Peter van Hulle and members of the chorus in Die Fledermaus at West Green House
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Die Fledermaus, with its delicious tunes and high spirits, might define Viennese operetta, but there is nothing romantic about its web of lust, hedonism and deception.

By updating it from the 1870s to around 1930, and opting for an English version by Leonard Hancock and David Pountney, director-designer Richard Studer emphasises its credentials as a screwball musical comedy.

On the wide stage of West Green House’s transparent-walled auditorium are three large gilded cages. They remind us of the characters’ desire to escape their daily existence. They also come in useful for the final jail scene and add to the sense of Hollywood glamour at Prince Orlofsky’s party, skilfully achieved with the principals, a chorus of just half a dozen and imaginative costuming.

The Prince’s ditty is sung with firmness and spice by Rebecca Afonwy-Jones, while Jana Holesworth – promoted at short notice from the chorus to replace Stephanie Corley – really shows her mettle in Rosalinde’s soulful and virtuosic czardas. Galina Averina, playing up her Russian accent in Adele’s dialogue, brings steely substance and gleam to the chambermaid’s numbers, normally the preserve of soubrettes.

An energetic Eisenstein, Peter Van Hulle sings with definition and point, Robin Bailey is an explosively passionate Alfredo, and Benjamin Bevan’s urbane, full-toned Falke pulls the strings of the plot with panache.

The performance of the famous overture under conductor Jonathan Lyness very much sets the scene for his reading of the score. The dance rhythms swing and fizz without becoming frenetic and some especially graceful oboe playing adds a touch of middle-European melancholy.

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The essential Viennese operetta comes up fresh in this smartly performed art deco update