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Die Fledermaus in Japanese

New National Theatre Opera House
04/21/1999 -  and 22, 23, 24, 25 April 1999
Johann Strauss II : Die Fledermaus
Masanobu Kondo (Eisenstein), Miwako Matsumoto (Rosalinde), Minako Shioda (Adele), Ken Nishikiori (Alfred), Yuji Ogawa (Frank), Junichi Oguri (Falke), Akira Tachikawa (Orlovsky), Shuhei Tsutsui (Blind), Shinji Kawabata (Frosch) Tamiyo Kusakari (Ida)
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, New National theare Chorus, Tokyo FM Boys Choir, Yukio Kitahara (conductor), Hironori Terasaki (director), Naoji Kawaguchi (set designer)
Presented by the New National Theatre, Tokyo

The Tokyo Philharmonic play more opera (and ballet) than any other orchestra in Japan. In the right hands they can make wonderful music. On this occasion they were led by Yukio Kitahara, a brilliant young conductor whose career so far has been mainly in Vienna, Insbruck, and Aachen. He delivered a lively, elegant overture with exactly the right kind of idiomatic attention to dynamics and rhythm, and panache.

Nothing that happened on the other side of the orchestra pit was either as musical or as intelligent.

The opera was set in Austria at the turn of the last century. Alphonse Mucha paintings dominated the set in the first act and there was an elegant art nouveau jail in the third, However the social relations acted out on the stage derived more from the stereotypes of Japanese domestic television drama.

Minako Shioda's super-confident Adele dominated the show and won the hearts of the audience. Essentially Eisenstein's 'other woman', she played the maid in the style of a spunky bar hostess. Extremely familiar with her employers, she lolled on the arm of her mistress's armchair and commanded attention by constantly drawing up her skirts to show off her attractive legs. Ending 'Mein Herr Marquis' with a flourish, she jumped up on a chair, grabbed Eisenstein's head and playfully thrust his face into her breasts in a mock suffocation, proving that she was neither a maid, nor a lady! Shioda had a good voice for Adele, but not always the right musical instincts. Her delivery was erratic and she didn't possess the essential skill for an Adele, of being able to laugh while singing.

Masanobu Kondo (Eisenstein) portrayed the habitually philandering husband. He had a rather nasal voice but sang incisively, He had a credible stage presence, helping to hold together the scenes in which he appeared. He dealt with his exuberant maid by repeatedly pinching her bottom.

Miwako Matsumoto played Rosalinde as a sweet, plummy-voiced, but much put-upon middle-aged wife, unable to control either her maid, or her husband or Alfred, her young admirer. She also had problems controlling a wobble and an intrusive vibrato. In the Csardas she was overwhelmed by the orchestra. Her dancng . . .

Orlovsky was played by Akira Tachikawa, a counter-tenor with a clear, well projected, if strident, voice. He was accompanied everywhere by a beautiful child in a matching white military uniform.. Ken Nishikiori, a well-known local singer with no less than 12 published CDs, played Alfred as a scatter-brained, puppyish tenor, much younger than the Eisensteins. Yuji Ogawa (Frank) and Junichi Oguri (Falke) contributed well sung and relatively less zany performances. The non-singing actor Shinji Kawabata (as so often) won the most laughs with Frosch the jailor's drunken antics. The Tokyo Ballet Group appeared in a number of set pieces, but the conventional style of the dancing didn't match the production.

This audience was unlike the smart, fashionable set at the Bunkamura Turandot, and different again from the serious fans at the Tokyo Opera Production Hamlet, but they knew the operetta well. They knew exactly when to clap along with the music. They were delighted by the familiar characterizations of the singers and the exotic setting. The next production at the New National Theatre will be a new operatic version of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. It could be a really big success - with the right tunes and a catchy drinking chorus!

Simon Holledge



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