By David Gordon, News Editor
Is it impossible for Hofstra Opera Theatre to stage a production that's camp free? Last year's production, "L'incoronazione di Poppea," couldn't figure out what time period in which it belonged. This year's selection, Johann Strauss' pretty "Die Fledermaus," succeeded far greater in terms of period, but the camp factor was still there.
Directed by Hofstra Opera Theatre impresario Isabel Milenski (who also directed "Poppea,") this "Fledermaus" fashioned a "new" script around Strauss' score (the original book was by Carl Haffner and Richard Genee, who also wrote the lyrics). New, of course, is a relative term. The period was "updated" to the 1990s, modern references flying abound, and the level of camp was extraordinarily high. Too high. Much too high.
"Fledermaus," ("The Bat," in English) tells of an elaborate trick played on a gentleman named Eisenstein, by his dear friend Falke. Eisenstein is set to spend eight days imprisoned. Rosalinda, his wife, is having an affair with Alfred (who, in this production, is a poolboy). When the police chief arrives to arrest Eisenstein, Alfred takes his place, at Rosalinda's urging. Later, at a party for one Prince Orlofsky, more entanglements are revealed as the guests revel in the joy of champagne.
Opera singers aren't the most convincing actors, and while the cast didn't necessarily deliver the cheeseball dialogue with the conviction that, say, actors would, they did, (thankfully), sing very well. Junior Christina Pecce (who alternated the role of Rosalinda with Josephine Delledera) possesses a pleasing soprano and a demeanor that oozes sex appeal. Michael Franzone, a recent graduate, makes for an appealing Eisenstein, with an equally appealing tenor.
Mario Arevalo (a ringer brought in by the music department) is wonderful as the wrongly jailed Alfred. And senior Jared Berry nearly ran away with the whole thing as the police chief, in one scene dancing with two pistols and, in another, sporting a red boa (costumes, by Christina Bullard, fit the period and played up the camp factor.)
Jian Jung's incredibly attractive set and Jeanette Yew's lighting were the least campy of everything – lovely and toned down. Hopefully next year's selection will follow that theme.