Preview: “It’s a spectacle!” The Royal Northern College of Music are performing Die Fledermaus with a few surprises

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Featured image: Robin Clewley

Die Fledermaus is one of the most famous operas in history. What’s a better way to celebrate 50 years of the RNCM than with a few surprises along the way. 

Die Fledermaus, composed by Johann Strauss II encompasses everything expected of a traditional operetta with a range of music and dialogue that allows the comedy of the story to shine through. It premiered in Vienna in 1874 and is musically high spirited with waltz and polka scenes.

Now transfer everything known about this traditional operetta to the eve of the millennium in 1999. For a 50th Anniversary celebration, the RNCM have subverted the traditional style and setting to create a party atmosphere, just in time to celebrate Christmas. 

The Royal Northern College of Music, neighbour of Manchester Metropolitan University, is internationally known for its innovative approach to teaching the next generation of aspiring artists and this production of Die Fledermaus is no different.  

“Being in an opera is an essential part of students’ training at RNCM,” says Chorus master, Kevin Thraves. “Lots of people are involved: a chorus of 47, 20 principal roles and 45 in the orchestra. I knew by choosing this production, a massive quantity of students would be included.”  

This production is also double cast for all principal roles. A traditional production of Die Fledermaus only has 10 principal roles, but this is RNCM’s way of maximising the number of students who can receive the principal opportunity. As well as a strong front of over 100 students, there are many backstage staff, all working to bring this production together for December.  

Designer, Yannis Thavoris and Director, Stephen Barlow have chosen to transport the story from a traditional Viennese ballroom to the ship deck of a cruise liner, as passengers wait to ring in the new millenium. “The Designer and Director wanted to update the setting to make it more interesting,” adds Thraves.  

While the RNCM retains some of the operetta’s traditional features and format, the production will be in English and strives to be more interesting and entertaining to audience members who come to watch. It promises to be accessible, colourful and witty to everyone. 

“It’s a spectacle,” says Greg Skipworth, Stage Manager. For any first time opera goers, this is a very good way to begin, with a mixture of musical and opera components that will ensure a tuneful night out. 

The Arts Council’s decision to cut all funding for English National Opera just last week, has created uncertainty in the English community of opera. Could the days of traditional opera be numbered and are new and innovative approaches needed for it to survive? 

Die Fledermaus is showing at the Royal Northern College of Music on Oxford Road, Manchester from 10 – 17 December, 2022.

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Rachel Cowsill

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