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So, after seeing two great operas in Berlin, I continued my journey through Germany and made my way to Dortmund, about 45 minutes outside of Duesseldorf, and a marvelous city in its own right. I saw 'Die Fledermaus' at the Oper Dortmund, which, by the way, is a wonderfully modern theater, perhaps on the same architectural plane as the Deutsche Oper Berlin, because of its streamlined look. The upper balconies, as well as the area which would normally be the 'cheap seats' in any other theater (the ones at the highest point and the furthest from the stage) all amazingly offered unadulterated and impeccable views of the stage, and I would wager, possibly the farthest back, top most seats might have even been the best- considering that the sound would be best there- and you could actually SEE the singers (and they didn't look like ants!)--go figure!
Anyway, besides a beautiful and marvelously designed theater space, Oper Dortmund also boasts a thoughtful production team, and quite expert singers. This particular production was "Die Fledermaus" by Johnann Strauss, and served as a reminder to myself as well as the other members of the audience that Regietheater in Germany is a live and well and that we certainly weren't stateside. The production itself was modernized to be taking place in our current era in an apartment of an upper middle-class couple in Vienna. Nothing was remarkable about that scenario, nor was it remarkable that the prince's palace was depicted to be some sort of gentleman's club where the 'ballet dancers' were depicted as scantily clad temptresses and it almost seemed to be what one would imagine the inside of the Playboy mansion might be like during a party. Anyway, even those aspects of the production were rendered childlike in their innocent nature when one considers how the show began.
I, like many of my singer colleagues, feel that gratuitous nakedness in any art form ( performance art, opera singing, movies, broadway) detracts from the original intention of the creators of that particular piece (of music, of art, of film) unless that particular piece of art was created with those specific instances of nakedness to be included for a strategic affect or plot point of the piece. However, we are all familiar with nakedness for the sake of 'shock value' when viewed in the context of 'spicing up an old production of (insert name of any well-liked performance piece here) in order to make people come to the theater/gallery and to make sure that tell their friends to attend too.
Well, now you want to know how the production began. It began, quite simply, with the re-enactment of what happened in the past between Falke and Eisenstein, which spurred Falke to conjure up the entire 'Fledermaus' gag to make Eisenstein look like a fool. In the first moments before the conductor comes out to the pit, the curtain is raised and we see a town square with a well, and a group of men (possibly middle aged) gathered around someone seated on the wall of the well, who is obviously drunk. This unknown person is stripped of his all his clothes by the other men surrounding him, and his face is covered with a black sack as the men leave him there, and run off together laughing. He comes to after a few moments alone, and after taking off the black sack, realizes that he is completely naked in the middle of the town square (and in front of the audience, who serve the role of townspeople, as assumed by the unnamed man's horrified reaction) and begins to look for any way out of this embarrassing situation- which leads him to run across the edge of the stage from left to right, and then right to left, and then, in his haste and anxiety, down the stairs of the stage at the front corner, and across and over the laps of the people seated in the front row of the audience, and finally up the stairs on the other side and off the stage into the wings.
Needless to say, I was not sure what to expect from the rest of the production when it began like that, but I did appreciate that this nakedness was serving the back story of the actual opera that the audience was viewing, and, it was giving a bit of equality to the nakedness that I have been witness to on the stages of Germany (a.k.a. at least it wasn't more topless wo