The sweeping comedy of 'Die Fledermaus'

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

Gary Thor Wedow enjoys a wonderfully eclectic repertoire that ranges from early music to fresh off the press. A faculty member at the Juilliard School of Music, he balances teaching with opera and choral engagements. This month, he conducts the Virginia Opera's production of "Die Fledermaus," performed at its Norfolk, Richmond and Fairfax venues.

"I was very impressed by a performance of the company's 'Aida' several years ago and am so happy to have been invited to conduct this wonderful opera," he said. "Since I already knew many in the company, I felt very much at home and was quite impressed to learn that the offices, rehearsal hall and shops are in the same building. This is not the case in every company, and it allows for many more rehearsals onstage. Norfolk's Harrison Opera House is a modern reconstruction of a historical USO site. When I stand in the big amphitheater, now the set shop, I think of the Andrews Sisters, who performed here during WWII.

"People will be swept up in the music and comedy of this very traditional production. The sets are beautiful, and the director, Dorothy Danner, was a dancer, so she is perfect for this opera, which utilizes every musical style, among them the waltz, polka and gallop. At our first dress rehearsal, I was struck by how much the plot is the kind of situation comedy that goes back to ancient Greece and yet is the staple of those you see today on TV. Fun is fun wherever it happens, and comedy is as timely today is it was in 400 B.C. The toe-tapping music by Strauss brings things together just as in the days when Neanderthal men sat in their caves singing and dancing around the fire.

"The orchestra loved it and laughed at all the jokes. The musicians have been very cooperative and are trying to empower my ideas of how this music should be played. Strauss is played often by musicians around the world, and I love the fact that we are making this opera our own."

Onstage
'Die Fledermaus'
» Where: George Mason University Center for the Arts, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax
» When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Sunday
» Info: $44 to $98; 888-945-2468; cfa.gmu.edu

Wedow finds that variety is the spice of his life as he moves from one opera company production to another. His history with the New York City Opera goes back many years. In May, he conducted its highly praised production of Telemann's "Orpheus." He is a frequent guest of the San Francisco Opera, where earlier this season he conducted young singers of its Merola Program in Mozart's "La finta giardiniera."

Wedow has visited Washington, but he has not been to Richmond or Fairfax, so he looks forward to performing in both cities during the run of Strauss' "Die Fledermaus."

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