Seated in the Queen’s Hall studying the programme I wondered how a piano duet could fulfill the role of a full orchestra – even with accomplished pianists Enrique Ali and Darren Shillingford – and indeed, it did sound a little thin as the Overture signalled the start of the performance. However, as soon as Ayrice Wilson, as the chambermaid Adele, began to sing I relaxed. She had the right degree of sauciness, her diction was very good indeed, I had no trouble understanding the words she was singing – in English (my CD was sung in German with some English in the spoken passages). However, one would have liked a more staccato version of the laughing song in Act Two.
Unfortunately I only have Maria Nunes’ photographs of the ballroom scene: none of one of the main characters; Dr Falke – the Bat of the title, sung by Marvin Smith, or Prince Orlofsky – very well portrayed by Danielle Williams, indeed in my estimation, better than the performance on my CD.
Due to constraints of time this production curtailed the end of Act One when Dr Falke tells Rosalinde that before her husband Eisenstein goes to prison he’s going to attend a masked ball at Prince Orlofsky’s and providing her with a disguise, complete with mask, and the Gaoler’s comic piece as he tries to silence Alfred singing in the gaol while he is suffering from a hangover. That said, all praise goes to the pair of pianists who played with zest and panache to fill the role of a full orchestra. Ronald Samm was, as one would expect of a professional, excellent as Eisenstein, despite an evening attire that seemed a tad too big for him.
Natasha Dopwell, too, was excellent as Rosalinde, playing the comic role to the hilt and switching to the dramatic for the Czardas. Raguel Gabriel’s Alfred was a mite, just a tad over the top when it came to acting but the voice did not disappoint. With the cuts in the piece, Marvin Smith as Dr Falke gave a good account of the role, but it didn’t stand out as it does in the original. It was interesting to see Edward Cumberbatch in the comic role as Dr Blind – that he carried off with his usual professionalism.
Helmer Hilwig had only a very brief cameo performance as the Jailer (or Gaoler) however, we did spot him among the chorus in the ballroom scene. Supporting the main characters were Shellon Antoine as Prison Director Frank (and showing his flair for comedy as Eisenstein and Frank were introduced to each other as Frenchman) and Sabrina Marks as Adele’s sister, Sally. All in all this was a first class performance of the operetta, the audience enjoyed the jokes, and clapped at the high points (as at the end of the Czardas, to mention but one). Scene changes were slick, the simple set worked well for all three acts.
Conductor June Nathaniel kept pianists and singers in sync throughout. Indeed, the Classical Music Development Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago is to be complimented on a truly excellent performance of this tuneful, lighthearted Strauss operetta. It was indeed and in fact a delight, a positive tonic to send the audience home humming the waltz tunes and smiling at the jokes and ridiculous situations in the piece.
“Die Fledermaus” proved that there is a wealth of musical talent in TT, that good music isn’t dead or dying – perhaps thanks to the UTT music programme and without doubt due to the Classical Music Development Foundation of TT. We look forward to their next production.