The Metropolitan Opera is overflowing with flat Champagne these days, with the premiere of a new production of the perennial Viennese operetta “Die Fledermaus” in which its bubbly, lively qualities have been severely dampened.
Although the Met tends to shy away from works of musical theater and even many 19th century operettas, including those of Gilbert & Sullivan, a rare exception is Johann Strauss Jr.’s richly melodic and waltz-filled “Die Fledermaus,” which has not been seen at the Met for nearly a decade but used to be revived regularly around the holidays.
Set on New Year’s Eve, it revolves around the shenanigans of a married man and woman who, without telling each other, plan to attend a ball in disguise, unaware that their actions are being secretly orchestrated by a friend seeking revenge for a past humiliation.
Jeremy Sams’ new production, which updates the setting to the end of the 19th century and is performed in English, is marred by new dialogue provided by playwright Douglas Carter Beane (“The Nance”).
Beane indulges in cheesy and unfunny one-liners, including but not limited to making fun of the French. The excessive dialogue brings the opera’s running time to an unreasonable four hours. The singing and the orchestra also proved to be subpar for the Met.
If you can endure the first two acts, genuine comic relief arrives toward the end from Danny Burstein (“The Drowsy Chaperone”) as an inebriated jailer who stumbles around, chats up the audience and makes topical references.
He is joined by Tony winner Paulo Szot, who does his best to add a sense of liveliness as the villain, and Betsy Wolfe (“The Mystery of Edwin Drood”), who gives an aimless and anxious performance as an actress-socialite.