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Conservatory brings celebration in “Die Fledermaus”

Zeller and Robison bring a time-tested art form to the stages of the Conservatory.  |  Caitlin Gaines / THE CHIMES


The Conservatory’s vocal department has unveiled its grandest event of the year in the form of a famous operetta, “Die Fledermaus,” which translates to “The Bat.” Composed by the legendary Johann Strauss Jr. in 1874, “Die Fledermaus” follows Falke who seeks to take revenge on his friend Alfred Einstein for a light-hearted joke Einstein played on him a few years earlier. Einstein left Falke on a street while Falke was drunk and wearing a bat costume, resulting in Falke being called “Dr. Bat” by everyone he knows. Falke carefully plots his revenge for years in a story that evokes laughter and celebration.

Vocal Emphasis

Associate professors of voice and opera Jeanne Robison and Richard Zeller act as co-directors of the show. Zeller was quick to highlight the importance of this show for the vocal department.

“As far as what’s here in the Conservatory, this is kinda the biggest footprint of what we do,” Zeller said. “It’s kinda the Super Bowl of our vocal area anyway.”

They also decided to do concert performance rather than a theatrical performance, which means more emphasis is placed on the music and singing rather than the acting and story. The vocalists still act out the story, but without the sets and costumes. One reason included the three week break, which left them with less time to do more work. Cutting the sets and costumes enabled them to speed up the process and save money, which they used to hire a professional orchestra.

“What we normally do in 120 hours, we did in about 30 hours,” Robison said.

Vital technique

According to Zeller, they chose this piece because the operetta’s music suits the voices they have available. After all, classical singing proves much harder and technical than most contemporary singing. The vocal students in the show have to project their voices over an entire orchestra—all without any amplification. It remains a momentous feat and the thing that helped this aged art form stand the test of time.  

“Singing opera—it’s like the Olympics of singing in a way because you’re learning to make maximum sound, minimal effort to sing over an orchestra whereas in all these other areas you’re using a mic,” Robison said.

Classical singing relies on efficiency and endurance. Vocalists have to learn how to use the right parts of their chests and throats to get the strongest sound.

“We are trained to be able to use our voice in our most efficient way in that we breathe, we sing with space, we use a certain vocal production that ends up giving us better gas mileage. We go farther with the same amount of energy,” Zeller said.

Zeller and Robison have worked hard to display the magic of opera in “Die Fledermaus.” They see opera as a unique medium through which to experience human emotion. “Die Fledermaus” shares in this rich tradition by depicting human celebration and mirth.

The Conservatory will perform “Die Fledermaus” until Feb. 10.


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