New Philharmonic presents Johann Strauss II's elegant 'Die Fledermaus'

  • The New Philharmonic will open 2019 with Johann Strauss II's operetta "Die Fledermaus" on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 26-27.

    The New Philharmonic will open 2019 with Johann Strauss II's operetta "Die Fledermaus" on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 26-27. Courtesy of McAninch Arts Center

 
Submitted by Natalia Dagenhart

"A waltz of Johann Strauss is good music in its proper place," said British composer Vaughan Williams. It is known that Johann Strauss II, the 19th century Austrian composer, was called "The Waltz King" during his lifetime. He wrote elegant light music full of charm and airiness, including dance music and operettas. Johann Strauss II incorporated waltz in his operettas and made it their key element. Full of youthful and happy melodies and rhythms, his operettas still delight audiences around the world.

The New Philharmonic, the only professional orchestra based in DuPage County, will bring "Die Fledermaus," his most famous operetta, to the stage of the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn. Under the direction of Maestro Kirk Muspratt, the orchestra will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, on the College of DuPage campus, 425 Fawell Blvd. Tickets are $59. For tickets, call (630) 942-4000 or go to www.atthemac.org/events/die-fledermaus/.

A free MAC Chat will take place one hour prior to each performance.

New Philharmonic's repertoire has satisfied the various tastes of classical music lovers from Chicago and the suburbs for more than 40 years. The orchestra, with more than 60 professional musicians, was recently honored with the Illinois Council of Orchestras' 2017 ICO Award for Professional Orchestra of the Year. Additionally, Maestro Muspratt was named 2018 Conductor of the Year (Professional Orchestra) by Illinois Council of Orchestras.

The operetta, which will be sung in English, starts with the scene at the apartment of Gabriel von Eisenstein, a wealthy man, who lives with his attractive wife Rosalinde and their maid Adele. It is New Year's Eve, and Eisenstein has to go to jail for eight days for punching a police officer, but he decides to postpone that unpleasant event and chooses to have one more night full of fun and flirtation. His friend, Dr. Falke, brings him an invitation to a ball that will be given that night by Russian Prince Orlofsky. Eisenstein lies to Rosalinde and says that he is heading off to jail but goes to the ball. He doesn't know that Falke plans revenge as Eisenstein embarrassed him in the past when he left him drunk under a tree in the costume of a bat. Adele also lies to Rosalinde and tells her that she needs to visit her ill aunt but also goes to the ball being invited by her sister Ida. After everyone is gone, Rosalinde's lover, Alfred, comes to visit her. They drink champagne, but the prison governor Herr Frank arrives on the scene and arrests Alfred thinking that he is Eisenstein.

Rosalinde goes to the ball, disguised as a Hungarian countess. At the ball, while Eisenstein dressed as a French nobleman attempts to seduce his own wife without knowing it's her, she manages to steal his watch to keep it as evidence of his flirtation. Frank is also at the ball dressed as Chevalier Chagrin. He and Eisenstein become friends without knowing their identities, and after a happy song in which everyone is praising champagne Eisenstein and Frank hurry off on their independent ways to prison. There, the momentum of truth comes. Rosalinde arrives there, and Eisenstein blames her for infidelity with Alfred, who is in prison under the Eisenstein's name. In return, Rosalinde shows him his watch proving that he was unfaithful to her. Falke appears with Prince Orlofsky and all the party guests. Eisenstein finds out that the whole situation was a joke -- The Revenge of the Bat! Eisenstein philosophically declares that it's best to blame it all on the champagne. All is forgiven, and the opera ends with more champagne and carousing.

Chicago soprano Katherine R. Weber will star in this operetta in the role of Rosalinde. Weber has been previously seen in New Philharmonic's production of Verdi's "La Traviata" and in Chicago Opera Theatre's production of Tchaikovsky's "Iolanta."

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A recent graduate of the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, tenor Jesse Donner, will star in the role of Eisenstein. Donner has been previously seen in New Philharmonic New Year's Eve 2016 and in "The Best of Broadway" in 2017 as guest soloist. A resident artist at Lyric Opera of Chicago from 2014-17, Donner has already distinguished himself on the operatic and concert stage as a confident, skillful and extremely talented singer.

Other members of the cast include such talented singers as soprano Mikaela Schneider (Adele), who during the 2017-18 season had her solo debut at Carnegie Hall singing the role of Adele in "Die Fledermaus" with New York Lyric Opera Theatre, mezzo-soprano Ashley Sipka (Prince Orlofsky), who is a young successful Lyric Opera Stage Artist, and soprano Brittany Hebel (Ida), who recently received several top awards including the awards from the American Opera Society in Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera National Council (Encouragement Award).

The cast also includes tenor Matthew Greenblatt (Dr. Blind), who made his debut with New Philharmonic in "Show Boat and Show Tunes" in 2018, bass-baritone Sam Handley (Mr. Frank), who is a member of Lyric Opera of Chicago's Ryan Opera Center, tenor James Judd (Alfred), who was seen in the role of Gastone at the MAC in Verdi's "La Traviata" in 2018, and baritone Aaron Wardell (Dr. Falke), who was seen in the role of Marquis E'Obigny also at the MAC in Verdi's "La Traviata" in 2018.

"Die Fledermaus" is staged by Michael La Tour (Frosch), who is a master teacher and stage director at the Ryan Opera Center of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. His most recent work seen by the MAC patrons was New Philharmonic's 2017 production of "The Mikado." Being on staff at the Ryan Opera Center of the Lyric Opera of Chicago as a master teacher and stage director, La Tour directed such productions as "The Magic Flute," "The Marriage of Figaro," "La Traviata," "Die Fledermaus," and "Romeo et Juliette." He also directed, codirected and choreographed many other productions at various theaters.

This concert is sponsored by Smith Financial Advisors, Inc. WFMT 98.7 FM is Media Sponsor for this event.

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