It’s not often you can be a guest at a ball within a musical theater piece. Yet that is exactly what a local opera company is offering its patrons this weekend.
Raylynmor Opera will present two performances of “Die Fledermaus” this Saturday, Oct. 19, and Sunday, Oct. 20, at the Keene Country Club. Patrons will be playing country club members and guests of character Prince Orlofsky as they engage in an immersive theater experience — complete with a three-course gourmet authentic Austrian meal served between acts.
The event is building on the success of Raylynmor Opera’s cabaret-inspired production, “La tragédie de Carmen,” which included a Spanish menu.
“Die Fledermaus,” an operetta written in German by “waltz king” Johann Strauss II, is a comedy about infidelity, mistaken identity and the powerful effects of champagne — guests at Russian Prince Orlofsky’s ball in the story even sing in unison about the bubbly beverage.
“Strauss was the toast of Vienna,” said Benjamin Robinson, Raylynmor’s artistic director who wrote a new English translation of the piece. “Even though it is (now) set in the present, we are planting the taste of the event in its roots.”
Strauss’ work takes place on New Year’s Eve in 1899 Vienna, and the evening’s menu reflects that time and place. Guests will have a choice for appetizer of sasaka, an Austrian spread with onions and bacon on rye toast; or fleischlaberl mit kartoffelpuree, an Austrian meatball with potato puree.
Choice of entrée is wiener schnitzel (pork loin, breaded and fried served with lemon veal sauce); or Martinigansl, which is red cabbage stuffed with confit goose, dried plums, potato and cherry gastrique.
The entrée is served with choice of either potato goulash (poached potatoes in beef broth with paprika and caraway) or roasted Brussels sprouts and the meal is elegantly capped with kaiserschmarrn, an Austrian dessert pancake served with apple mousse and Chantilly cream.
While Robinson said the performance will not stray far from the original, he did add some modern (and a few local) references to the story. One of the main characters, Gabriel von Eisenstein, is forgiven by his wife, Rosalinde, for his philandering ways in Strauss’ opera and blames his indiscretions on too much champagne.
In the translation, said Robinson, she does not so easily forgive her husband. Also, Robinson played with ways gender norms can be accessed — the character of Eisenstein’s lawyer, Dr. Blind, is played by a woman in Raylynmor Opera’s production.
In his translation, Robinson said in addition to writing new dialogue for the first time in his career, he streamlined musical numbers and created new English versions that satisfied Strauss’ point of view and propelled the narrative.
“I was struck by how many good tunes there are in his piece,” he said. “The music is always winking at you in background ― that’s my favorite thing about this show ― it never loses sense of fun.”
The immersive experience for patrons will reach far beyond dining.
“The principles are sometimes sitting at the table with people — everyone is completely absorbed in the party,” he said. “The perspective keeps changing. When a character is feeling excited or upset, you see that moment, and depending on where you are sitting the room, it’s a different experience.”
Featured dancers with MoCo Arts will perform in Act II — it marks the first time Raylynmor has collaborated with another local organization in performance.
“This is one of those experiences that touches on all of the senses,” said Robinson. “It’s a great way to rethink this art form because it helps people connect the dots as to how (opera) remains vitally relevant.
“We want people to come to shows and say they didn’t realize opera could be done like this. We want to keep finding ways to defy people’s expectations.”
Raylynmor Opera presents “Die Fledermaus” for two performances this Saturday, Oct. 19, at 6 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 20, at 5 p.m. at the Keene Country Club. Tickets are $75 for performance and dinner ($35 for performance only) and can be ordered at raylynmor.com.