Yale Opera to Perform "Die Fledermaus" With Guest Appearance by Theodore Bikel

Champagne and high spirits bubble over in Johann Strauss’s comic operetta, “Die Fledermaus,” to be performed by Yale Opera at the Shubert Performing Arts Center, 247 College St., Feb. 13 and 14 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.

The story is a tangled tale of mistaken identity, romantic intrigue, masquerade, flirtation and mischief. Set in Vienna in the 1870s, the plot revolves around an elaborate joke staged by Dr. Falke, who had been made to walk home in broad daylight dressed as a bat (fledermaus) by his friend Gabriel von Eisenstein, sometime before the opera begins. To get his revenge, Falke contrives several ways for Eisenstein to embarrass himself at Prince Orlovsky’s party. Among other things, Eisenstein courts his own housemaid in disguise and then turns his charms on a lovely stranger – his own wife masquerading as a Hungarian countess. When he upbraids her the next morning for having a tryst with – of all people – an opera singer, she proves to him that he is as much at fault as she. In the finale, everyone agrees to blame their indiscretions on the abundant champagne at Orlovsky’s house, and all are reconciled.

The story is a farce and the music is delicious. The overture and the waltz are among the most popular pieces in the classical music repertoire. “Since its birth, it has been the operetta by which all others were gauged,” says Doris Yarick Cross, artistic director of the Yale Opera. When Strauss wrote “Die Fledermaus” in 1873, “the waltz king” was 40 years old and already internationally famous as musical director of court balls and conductor of an immensely popular orchestra. Pressed by theater directors, music publishers, newspaper writers, and no less a colleague than Jacques Offenbach, he took time off from his concert schedule to create this delightful work. “It remains in the repertoire of all the major opera houses of the world,” adds Cross, “and we are proud to be able to present this delightful work.”

As an added treat, celebrated actor/musician Theodore Bikel will perform the part of the drunken jailer Frosch. Bikel is probably best known for his portrayal of Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” but his stage and screen credits are diverse and extensive. In London, he won acclaim playing the Russian colonel in Peter Ustinov’s “The Love of Four Colonels.” His performances on Broadway include “The Rope Dances,” “The Lark” and the original Broadway production of “The Sound of Music,” for which he created the role of Baron von Trapp.

Bikel’s film career spans five decades, from “The African Queen,” “The Defiant Ones” and “The Blue Angel” in the 1950s, to “Benefit of the Doubt” and “Shadow Conspiracy” in the 1990s. He has starred in many television dramas in the United States, Canada and England, and won an Emmy in 1988 for his portrayal of an immigrant pioneer. Author of radio and television scripts, Bikel has also written a non-fiction reference work, “Folksongs and Footnotes”; an autobiography, “Theo”; and articles for many periodicals. His spoken recordings include “The Fifth Cup,” “The Passover Story,” “The Chanukah Story,” and classic and contemporary books on tape for Audio Renaissance.

To many fans, Bikel is best known as a guitarist and folk singer, with a repertoire in many languages. He maintains an active concert schedule throughout the United States and abroad, performing some 50-60 concerts per year, and has recorded 16 albums for Elektra Records, cast albums for “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music,” and much more.

“Die Fledermaus” is directed by Robert Tannenbaum. Lawrence Leighton Smith conducts the Yale Philharmonia. Performing the opera are graduate students in the Opera Program at the Yale School of Music with a chorus of Yale College singers.

The opera will be sung in German with English supertitles. Tickets are $32, $27, $22 and $16 and may be purchased at the Shubert Box Office or through Advantix at 800/228-6622. Group rates and student discounts are available.

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Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325