As San Francisco’s Pocket Opera is about the conclude its 2016-17 season, the numbers are impressive: It’s the company’s 40th year headed by Donald Pippin, 91, who started it, has managed every aspect of it and remains in complete charge over the current production of Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus.”
Looking frail but acting indefatigable, Pippin plays the piano for the entire length of the three-hour-long operetta, directs the Pocket Philharmonic, oversees the show which he cast, rehearsed and wrote (the English libretto). On Sunday at the Legion of Honor (and in its last performance July 23 in Palo Alto) everything is in English, except the title.
“The Bat,” a Viennese operetta and melodic global audience favorite, has not left the repertoire since its 1874 premiere. The simple, romantic, funny story is about the revenge of Falke (Jordan Eldredge) on his friend, Eisenstein (Martin Lewis), for tricking him in a situation where Falke ended up drunk in a bat costume.
The show’s strength — besides Pippin’s sparkling libretto, Nicolas Aliaga’s straightforward direction and Lisa Eldredge’s sumptuous costumes — is in the excellence of the three female leads.
Lindsay Roush, a powerful soprano, is Rosalinde, Eisenstein’s wife, who plays a masked, mysterious Hungarian countess, tempting her clueless, philandering husband to compromise himself.
Patricia Westley, a young soprano from New Zealand, is vocally-comically sensational as Adele, Rosalinde’s maid. (One of the stage director’s effective jokes is to have Adele instinctively mop up anything spilled, even when pretending to be a grand lady.)
Mary Rauh, a superb mezzo soprano, excels in the trouser role of Prince Orlofsky, shining in the second act, at the grand ball he is giving.
Among the men, Mason Gates stands out as Alfred, the amorous singer, in hot pursuit of Rosalinde, married or not, a woman involuntarily responding to snatches of famous tenor…