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Florentine Opera Ends its Season with a Bit of Froth in 'Die Fledermaus'

Imagine high society in late 19th century Vienna, with hijinks and masked balls, mysterious Russian royalty, glittering costumes and some glorious singing.

It’s the world of Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus and it is operetta at its most grand. Strauss also composed The Blue Danube Waltz and Tales From the Vienna Woods, and the famous Viennese waltz, with its large gestures and swooping lines, plays a big part in Fledermaus as well. Milwaukee's Florentine Opera will be closing their season with the operetta, which will feature some local favorites. 

Credit Kathy Wittman / Florentine Opera
Florentine Opera
Bill Theisen as Frosch in the Florentine Opera's production of 'Die Fledermaus.'

The show tells the story of Rosalinda and Gabriel von Eisenstein, played by Soprano InnaDukach and Baritone Corey McCkern, respectively. Gabriel is "a bit of a philandering husband," says McCkern. "He maybe has a temper. He's about to go to jail for eight days for kicking a tax collector." 

"He's hoping to take advantage of his first night away and get what we call in modern times a 'hall pass' I think," says McKern. That presents the central issue of the show. Rosalinda finds out about her husband's intentions and concocts a plan to disguise herself as another woman, and pursue her husband.

"I get to sort of start out as this fun, flaky wife and then I get to dress up and play a very outrageous character," says Dukach. 

Milwaukee favorite, Bill Theisen, returns to the stage in the role of Frosch, a drunken jailer intent on locking up Gabriel von Eisenstein. Theisen says there is an art to acting drunk on stage, without getting too unruly. 

"I think that's the trick, is to make it feel like you're in control of things, even though you truly are not because if it gets too ridiculous, or too messy, or too sloppy, then I think you can lose the comedy and the lightness and all that that we talk about," he says. 

Unlike grand opera, operetta's have a substantial amount of dialogue and tend to be comedic. That can prove difficult for performers used to the heightened tragedy of an opera. 

"You can't tip your cap in any way that it's a joke, right? You have to play it very straight, or it's absolutely unfunny. And so there's time when you want it to be free but you have to hit your mark," says McKern. "We say in rehearsal, 'Dying's easy. Comedy's hard.'" 

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.