Nothing better illustrates the magnum mysterium of the fine arts in Amarillo than contiguous events on October 5. As the Globe News Center staged Die Fledermaus, the Civic Center, across the street, hosted the World Championships of the Working Ranch Cowboys Association Ranch Rodeo!
Nowhere in the country could one find such a contrast in cultures. Yet, this wasn’t just a one-off event but rather illustrative of an ongoing reality: the ultimate in fine art coexisting with real-deal cowboys.
After a year in financial limbo, a redirected and reinvigorated Amarillo Opera performed Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss. This final iteration of “The Bat” represented quite a multi-stage and multi-national evolution from the original, Die Gefangnis, “The Prison.”
Within twenty years of its 1874 premier, this opera buffa found acceptance at the leading theatres in the world.
Truth be told, even aesthete culture vultures like to laugh. And what better way for Amarillo Opera to find a new place than through audience member’s funny bones?
All the stars certainly aligned for this work. If opera is the ultimate performance art, comic opera, despite the disdain of purists, raises that bar. The requirements for humor far exceed bellowing Bell Canto, and include nuance, chemistry and timing. And all of the combustibles compounded to ignite a 10 on the stage of the Globe News Center!
Much of the credit accrues to Director Dean Anthony, who enabled the cast to fully actualize their characters. And, he did a credible job self-directing himself as the inebriated Frosch.
The leads, Angela Turner-Wilson as Rosalina, and Weston Hurt as Eisenstein were believable in their dissembling and deception, whether it was to self, spouse or society.
Their voices coalesced beautifully, each complimenting the other. This quality permeated the whole cast which projected both blend and balance.
Amarillo’s own (we can claim him now) Eric Barry played Alfred, actually more of an Alfredo, who has twin loves: Rosalina and his own voice. On stage he he evinced a charming buffoonery as he tried to beguile Rosalina, while his offstage tenor was clear and thrilling.
Abigail Krawczynska, as the maid Adele, managed the perfect sob-fest to get her way, which resulted in her acting as an actress. Her feigned outrage at being mistaken for her true self in the aria My Dear Marquis was layered with all sorts of operatic icing.
And a trouser role, right across the street from barrel-racing! Cara Collins played the bored Prince Orlofsky, who names, among a whole litany, this very opera as his chief cause for boredom!
Cara sounded Russian, and Angela, posing as a Hungarian countess, sang like she’d just come from the salons of Budapest. Weston, and Adelmo Guidarelli, who played the jailer Frank, failed utterly as poseurs sounding French. But faux Francais was in the script.
If laughter is the best medicine, then Die Fledermaus was just what the doctor ordered for a clearly recrudesced and recovering Amarillo Opera.
The citizens of Cowboy Country can be justly proud of this organization, capable of producing such quality grand opera. And, congratulations to General Director Mary Jane Johnson, and the cast and crew for a performance worthy of much bigger metropolitan stages.
Amarillo Opera is but one more reason we can say: “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!”