"The Bat" Brings the Party
by Ben Williams and Linsey Ewing
Once every ten years or so since the early 1980s, Opera Mississippi has returned to Johann Strauss II's popular and hilarious operetta Die Fledermaus! (or…The Bat Gets Even!). This decade's entry, on Saturday, April 22, 2023, was particularly special as the company's first return to a mainstage performance at Jackson's Thalia Mara Hall since before the 2020 pandemic. Other firsts included director Rose Freeman's first partnership with Opera Mississippi and Freeman's first staging of this opera.
While some of the humor of late-nineteenth-century Viennese society might inevitably be lost in translation, there was no chance of leaving this concert hall without having laughed at least once. As the orchestra, under the seasoned direction of conductor Jay Dean, played the familiar themes of the overture, a silent Batman (Die Fledermaus, get it?) and a jesting magician fell over each other arranging the stage for the first act. Next up: the operatic crooning of tenor Nicholas Perna (Alfred) making soprano and Opera Mississippi's executive director, Stacey Trenteseaux (Rosalinde), weak in the knees while their over-the-top 80's-campiness never let up.
In addition to these Mississippi-based singers, the production featured artists from around the country, including the three power-house baritone voices of Jason Detwiler (Eisenstein), Jason Duika (Falke), and Tony Offerle (Frank). Drawing strong cheers was the acrobatic soprano of Tjaden O'dowd Cox (Adele) in her popular "Laughing Song," who also literally performed acrobatics while singing on Opera Mississippi's season-closer last year.
Much of this production's success was due to the strong support of the Mississippi musicians making up the chorus and orchestra. The large ensemble of emerging and seasoned singing artists hammed it up at the Orlofsky ball. Meanwhile, the instrumentalists, all of whom are regular performers of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, led by concertmaster Shellie Brown Kemp, tastefully performed the subtle dance music of Viennese nobility. An evident good time was had by all: audience, cast, and crew.
Opera Mississippi didn't just return to Thalia Mara; they brought the party!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ben Williams is the Chair of the Department of Music and an Associate Professor of Music at Mississippi College. Linsey Ewing is a writer, editor and online tutor specializing in English-language learning.