Review: Der Fledermaus, Tosca and Carmen – Ellen Kent Presents

Ellen Kent
The Edinburgh Playhouse
3 Stars (3 / 5)

Ellen Kent presents an ambitious trilogy of Opera’s at The Edinburgh Playhouse – Antony Sammeroff manages to catch all of them for The Outlier.

Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss

A charming comic Operetta full of slapstick humour and whimsical, Die Fledermaus tells the story of a deliciously deceptive rouse that plays on to avenge his friend for an earlier humiliation. He invites Rosalinde (Alyona Kistenyova) the wife of the bombastic Alfredo (Ruslan Pacatovici) to disguise herself and tempt him flirtatiously to show him for his Valentino antics.

The singing is fantastic, the acting leaves far too much to be desired. This would perhaps not be such an issue but for the fact there is so much dialogue in the play. A lot of the would-be humour is lost to dreadful delivery in this overblown melodrama. The grand reveal in the final act which should arouse excitement is distinctly anti-climatic.

Delightful voices carry us through a production which is enjoyable for all its flaws. Maria Tonina gives its crowning performance as Adele, Rosalinde’s maid, who secretly aspiring actress – each of her beautifully sung arias brightens the stage.

Tosca by Puccini

Perhaps Puccini’s best-loved opera, Tosca tells the heart-wrenching tale of a jealously insecure young maid who falls for an exiled prisoner and will finally die for her love of him. When the villainous Baron Scarpia (well, with a name like that) offers his release for a little something more from Tosca – she struggles with the dilemma of giving herself over to him but instead settles for the far more satisfactory option of stabbing him to death.

Tosca was the most convincing of Ellen Kent’s three offerings. The more serious and broody of the pieces, Alyona Kisteyova comes more into her own in this less frivolous role giving an impassioned performance as Tosca. Vitalii Liskovetskyi sings his heart as protagonist Mario Cavaradossi.

A couple of disappointing omissions. By all customs Tosca ought to contain cruel depictions of torture, murder and suicide – but most of the juice happens offstage. Tosca begs for Mario to be released from torture, his cries hardly heard from the wings. Strangely, Tosca does not throw herself – dramatically – from the battlements at the end, but rather disappears behind the steps at the back of the stage. A needless anti-climax.

Carmen by Bizet

In many ways Carmen is the most engaging offering – full of well-known turns and delightful melodies. The story of a high maintenance gypsy girl, beloved of all men, who seduces an innocent man away from his marriage vows and even into deserting from the army to embrace a life of depravity, only to then leave him for a famous toreador. The set worked particularly well in this production.

Sadly too many directorial opportunities were simply thrown a way. A sexy strip tease, anyone would relish the opportunity to make the most of, not to mention a knife fight between Don Jose the protagonist and Escamillo the torero – sadly lacking in any drama and suspense. Much of the mime was overblown and melodramatic rather than naturalistic; and not enough was made of Carmen’s seductions. She flounced sweetly where she may have tempted fiendishly – and her tantrums could have been fierier still. Liza Kadelnik, in the role, was not devoid of enchantments – but it was her voice that really carried her through.

Ultimately the music was the shining virtue of this production, conductor Vasyl Vastlenko was particularly sensitive to timing the music against the soloists and the reactions of the audience.