Bub­bly con­ver­sa­tion Words from the cast of Die Fle­d­er­maus

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Michael Wade Simp­son


I first played Orlof­sky four or five years ago, and two years ago at the Met. Orlof­sky is odd. He’s not even in the first act. Orlof­sky has no back story. No one knows any­thing about him. He sings, “I’m so bored.” The party in Act 2 is held as a chal­lenge to amuse him. His per­sonal phi­los­o­phy is, “Ev­ery­body can do what­ever they want.”

The mu­sic is not chal­leng­ing for me. It’s just frothy, bub­bly, and fun. It’s nice to come to Santa Fe and not carry the whole show.

Ned Canty [the di­rec­tor] is a comic ge­nius. Things are quirky, ran­dom. There are Dalí-es­que go­ings-on. An al­li­ga­tor makes an ap­pear­ance. I do crazy stuff on­stage. I love to keep my­self amused. You can do that in a party scene.

I’ve been play­ing pants roles my en­tire ca­reer. Orlof­sky is go­ing to be dressed in some pur­ple and black, Hugh Hefner-style pa­ja­mas — later in a Rus­sian coat, thigh-high boots and a black wig with a shock of white. I play Orlof­sky as a very ec­cen­tric, Rus­sian ver­sion of my­self.

Cham­pagne plays a big part in the show. I in­vented a ro­man­tic story for Orlof­sky. Maybe he re­ally is in drag.


This is the third ver­sion of Adele I’ve sung. The first was in Ger­man, and then I’ve learned mul­ti­ple English ver­sions. The last time I did Adele, at the Met, old ver­sions in English and lit­tle bits of Ger­man kept pop­ping into my head.

Ned [Canty, the di­rec­tor] and I de­cided that Adele is just com­pe­tent enough to keep her cham­ber­maid job, but is oth­er­wise re­ally bad, lazy, dis­re­spect­ful — a teenager. She has a trans­for­ma­tion when she learns her own tal­ent for act­ing.

I’ve sung col­oratura roles for most of my ca­reer, but I’m forty now, and broad­en­ing into lyric parts. I’ve had a baby. I feel more grounded. I’m ready to move on from just the young, sexy, flirty parts.

Some­times, in the midst of all the fun we’re hav­ing, I have to re­mem­ber to pare down my phys­i­cal­ity and save my en­ergy. We’re all go­ing over-the-top with the comedy, but I have to get through phrases with no places to take breaths. I’ve been singing full-out at re­hearsals in or­der to get used to the al­ti­tude and dry­ness.

My hus­band, Kurt Streit, is play­ing Gabriel von Eisen­stein. We met singing with the Ber­lin Phil­har­monic. This is the first time we’ve been in an opera to­gether. It’s re­ally fun to sing to­gether.


Die Fle­d­er­maus is an op­eretta, but also, as we call it, “a proper sing.” It calls for tremen­dous vo­cal fac­ul­ties. Amid all the comedy, Kurt [Streit, who plays Ros­alinde’s hus­band] and I have a real, re­lat­able, dra­matic arc. We’re a hus­band and wife who have been married a few years. Maybe things have fiz­zled a lit­tle. Over the course of the even­ing, play­ing roles at a [cos­tume] party, we re­dis­cover why we were at­tracted to each other and married in the first place. All these col­or­ful char­ac­ters sparkle and bring comedy in dif­fer­ent ways, but there is this real story there as well. Not ev­ery pro­duc­tion will make this choice.

This has been a master class in comedy. We’ve been play­ing with an in­tel­li­gent un­der­stand­ing of style, but still play­ing. Search­ing. What is funny? Trying to find that sweet spot of style while still be­ing funny. It’s about edit­ing, like a fash­ion de­signer who starts with a big de­sign and ed­its things down. We’re tai­lor­ing our comic choices to the story and vice versa. In the early stages we have the mu­sic re­hearsals and then the stag­ing re­hearsals, where we are walk­ing the stage and fo­cus on the sto­ry­telling. As we get closer, the two fuse to­gether. We start hav­ing to rec­on­cile the needs of both as­pects of the per­for­mance.

This is my fourth sea­son in Santa Fe. I was an ap­pren­tice in 2010 and 2012, sang Marzelline in

Fide­lio and cov­ered Mi­caela in Car­men in 2014. I’ve never done this role, never done this opera, never done scenes from it. I’ve known I was go­ing to do this role for three years. I started pre­par­ing re­ally early.

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