Contrary to popular perception, a night at the opera is not boring, nor is it the exclusive realm of the very wealthy. The Canadian Opera Company’s current production of Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus is a light-hearted operetta that is pure entertainment. In fact, Die Fledermaus’ subject matter — a night of alcohol-infused debauchery — is one that will probably speak to university students.
Many students might believe that they can’t afford the supposed luxury of the opera. But the COC’s “Opera Under 30” program aims to ease the financial restrictions that often limit students’ access to operatic performances. Through this program, patrons between the ages of 16 and 29 are able to sit in the upper two levels of the theatre for only $22. Also available are $35 rush tickets, which can get you the best seats in the house. These costs are well below normal ticket prices, which range from $45–$325.
My night at the opera was a riot. Die Fledermaus, a late nineteenth-century operetta, is about a man, Gabriel von Eisenstein, who is due to serve an eight-day jail sentence and decides to go out to a party before he is incarcerated. When he is barely out the door, his wife’s ex-lover, an over-dramatic tenor, slips in. Later on in the night, every character — from the maid, to the Prince of Russia, to an off-duty cop — comes together for a costume party.
The party scene shows off the impressive skills of costume designer Constance Hoffman, whose work manages to make all of the performers, including the many members of the show’s large chorus, look celebratory. My personal favourites included the variety of neon undergarments worn by several male characters, and four dancers dressed in bat costumes.
Also noteworthy was the playful, non-realistic set. From a massive watch slowly swaying back and forth, to a grand staircase leading to nowhere, set designer Allen Moyer has created an alternate world where life is always a party.
Of course, the opera is a delightful experience for music lovers, and the COC’s production of Die Fledermaus is no exception. A large number of the principal cast and ensemble are also Canadians, which only makes things that much better.
A refrain in Die Fledermaus is “chacun à son goût,” or “each to his own taste.” The COC’s lively production Die Fledermaus will appeal to any student who is willing to have a little fun with an opera that concludes by blaming everything on the alcohol.