REVIEW! Light Opera of New Jersey's Die Fledermaus

📷 Credit: Opera Culture

Artistic Director: Lauran Fulton Corson

Music Director & Conductor: Jason Tramm

Stage Direction: Reegan McKenzie

Guest Conductor: Anthony LaGruth

Producers: Joanna Hoty Russell & Christiana Dzerovych

Executive Producer: William Corson


Light Opera of New Jersey celebrated 25 years as a company, presenting a dazzling production of Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus. From the outstanding cast full of delightful singers to the array of vibrant, sparkling costumes and hilariously entertaining staging, this production did not disappoint. The opera was performed in English so the audience had the unique opportunity to participate throughout the performance, thoroughly entertained by its relatable, modern humor and cultural references, as well as its intriguing story line. The audience was completely enraptured by each scene, not just as bystanders watching an opera but as participants fully delving into the story, the characters, and the overall operatic experience.

Church Transforms into an Opera Theater

The performance was held inside of a traditional church, St. Marks Episcopal Church in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, with glorious, high vaulted ceilings and beautiful wood details. The acoustics were surprisingly great as the voices carried through to the very farthest back pews of the church so that everyone could hear clearly. The church was essentially transformed into an opera theater with stunning backdrops and scenery on the stage, the orchestra sitting in a section to the left, and even the church pews were transformed into concert seating with numbered aisles and a comfortable cushion for each audience member. Having an opera in this church setting made it feel like a more personal, intimate experience, compared to a larger theater or hall where it can sometimes feel a bit distant and cold. Companies who utilize churches and other more intimate venues are seeing the direct outcome of audience attendance and involvement. The church was completely full of attendees and it was apparent that they thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

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Great Beginnings

The opera started off with great success with Music Director and Conductor Jason Tramm leading the orchestra with fervor and vigor, creating a high-energy performance with a robust sound that captivated the audience. In addition, his thoughtful and wide-ranging use of dynamics kept us engaged, from the light and delicate pizzicato on the strings to the beautiful, long-phrasing crescendos on the woodwinds.

All of the members of the orchestra had a fantastic performance, but a few out-shined the rest. The concert master, Kathleen Butler-Hopkins was particularly exquisite with her delicate yet accurate pizzicato and her overall technique was impeccable, which made leading the string section much easier.

On oboe, Nancy Vanderslice created a rich, beautiful tone with long phrasing that we could hear shining through several parts of the overture. All of the orchestra members had a great night and should be extremely proud of their performance.

📷 Credit: Opera Culture

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Act I, The Home of Gabriel, was incredibly delightful and entertaining. In "Turtle-dove who flew aloft," you could immediately tell who the stand-out performer of the evening was, soprano Chelsea Friedlander as Adele, with her beautiful spinning upper register, her crystal clear pronunciation, and her exquisite acting and dramatic flair.

Tenor Matthew Tartza played the role of Alfred with fantastic acting and personality. Any difficulty the audience had in understanding some of his pronunciation was forgiven by his delightful take on the character.

📷 Credit: Opera Culture

"Ah, my lady says" introduced Rosalinda to the scene, performed by soprano Samantha Blossey, who portrayed the character with an elegant charm and wit. It was also clear that Samantha would be an audience favorite, with her superb acting that truly brought the story to life.

"When these lawyers don't deliver" was one of the most outrageously humorous moments of the opera, with tenor Zachary Morehouse as the incredibly funny and entertaining Dr. Blind. This scene was definitely a crowd-pleaser, with audiences laughing at the humor portrayed by Zachary.

📷 Credit: Opera Culture

"Come along to the ball" entered Falke, portrayed by baritone Matt Ciuffitelli, who displayed great charisma and gorgeous long phrasing. Eisenstein, played by tenor Jeremy Blossey, was amazing in his vocal projection as well as his stage presence, delighting audiences with his larger-than-life sound and personality.

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"To part is such sweet sorrow" was an incredibly clever scene, with great staging concepts that made the audience laugh and be entertained. The finale of Act I was particularly amusing, with Frank Skokan as Frank, who had great vocal projection and his funny and clumsy character made the audience love him.

A Delightful Ball!

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Act II, A Ballroom in Prince Orlofsky's Villa, started with an ensemble full of energy, radiant voices, and incredibly gorgeous costumes in the scene, "What a joy to be here." The audience could definitely feel the joy in the room and felt in awe looking at the grandeur of the costumes and scenery.

Prince Orlofsky, played by Brittany Bellacosa, was fantastic in "From time to time I entertain" with amazing vocal projection, a great accent for Orlofsky, gorgeous dark depth of tone in her middle and lower registers, and a superb, commanding stage presence. All her registers were clear and strong.

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The standout performance of the evening was Adele's Laughing Song, performed by Chelsea Friedlander, whose spinning high notes shined and handled coloratura passages with an incredible ease. She had great vocal projection and her solid technique allowed her to focus on the incredible acting and staging she delighted the audience with.

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Another significant moment from Act II was "How engaging, how capricious" where the audience were at the edge of their seats, waiting for the couple to unveil who they really are. It was incredibly fun watching Rosalinda and Eisenstein move across the stage together.

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"Voice of my homeland" was another delightful scene with Brittany Bellacosa as Prince Orlofsky, parading across the room, capturing everyone's attention with the aristocratic charm she portrayed.

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A particularly unique moment occurred in "Champagne's delicious bubbles" at the end of Act II, where the cast actually came off the stage and into the audience, dancing with their champagne glasses and toasting to us. It was so rare to see the cast involve the audience in this way and was a perfect ending to Act II.

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A Perfect Ending

Jason Tramm directed the orchestra beautifully and kept everyone tightly together with all of the individual members in sync with one another. It was also delightful when Jason Tramm played into acting at certain moments in the opera when attention was put on him for an occasional tribute.

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Hank Barre singing the role Frosch was particularly funny as he played the bars on the jail cell as if they were strings on a harp. The audience utterly adored Hank in all of his drunken antics.

The "Melodrama" performed by Frank Skokan as Frank was entertaining, especially when he acted drunk, and his voice was very rich and dark.

📷 Credit: Opera Culture

Adele's, "Ever since I was a baby" performed by Chelsea Friedlander was exquisite, and again, her fantastic acting abilities were clearly noticed.

"To judge his expression" was entertaining and a fantastic trio between Rosalinda, Alfred, and Eisenstein. Their personalities worked well together on stage and the audience loved it.

The finale of Act III, "Oh, Eisenstein, you master-mind" was the perfect ending to an outstanding performance, with everyone on stage including the principals and the entire ensemble singing and celebrating.

Overall, the opera was extremely well done and you could clearly tell how much work everyone put in to make it such a great success. We applaud everyone involved and it was such a treat to experience such a superb operatic experience in New Jersey. It was a production that will be hard to forget and one that will be hard to top in their future upcoming productions.

📷 Credit: Opera Culture

Congratulations on 25 years as a company and we wish you much continued success for years to come.

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Below are some more photo highlights from the production.

📷 Credit: Opera Culture


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