The Santa Fe Opera launched its 57th season Friday night by transporting its audience to a madcap realm where political foibles and military scheming are engulfed in a swirl of silliness. On offer is Jacques Offenbach’s The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, directed by Lee Blakeley in an energetic, colorful production that lets the piece wend along its farcical path without trying to invest it with any deep meaning, thank you.
The matter is slight indeed. A Grand Duchess with an unbridled sex drive takes an unseemly interest in her military cadets and particularly private Fritz, whom she courts by promoting him rapidly up the ranks until he displaces even her commander-in-chief, General Boum. When clueless Fritz proceeds to marry his sweetheart, Wanda, the Grand Duchess plots to have him bumped off by the unholy trinity of Boum, her aide Baron Puck and her suitor, Prince Paul; but she settles for just demoting him instead and resigns herself to marrying Prince Paul because, as she muses, “When you can’t have what you love, you must love what you have.”
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