Il Pipistrello by Johann Strauss (sung in Italian).

Based on a French comedy by Meilhac and Halvy, Le Rveillon (which means midnight supper, particularly on Christmas or New Years eve), Il Pipistrello, with its scintillating exuberance, is perfect pre-Christmas entertainment, and in this present production the Teatro dellOpera di Roma has pulled out all its stops. In addition to superb singing and acting, fizzing playing by the orchestra under Donato Renzetti, gorgeous sets and costumes, the great Carla Fracci herself, in peerless form, and the Primo ballerino toile, Mario Marozzi, are thrown in as well in the spectacular series of dances that end Orlofskys glorious party. Furthermore, the highly comic role of Frosch is performed by the first-rate actor, Massimo Dapporto.

Filippo Crivellis production is traditional, and most successful, with sets by Maurizio Varamo and costumes by Anna Biagiotti; the audience desires to be transported into a fantasy world, and that is what it gets in abundance. The Eisenstein house, if not quite sumptuous, is most decidedly comfortable, but Orlofskys apartment is splendid, with columns and a sweeping staircase, lavishly peopled by crowds of protagonists and extras clad in the most variegated and luxurious outfits.

Darina Takova, as Rosalinde, combining a rich and vibrant voice with consummate acting, is just perfectly cunning and audacious (the Czrds is superb). Anna Maria dellOste could not be funnier or more deliciously saucy as Adele, singing with brilliantly clarity; her Laughing Song was an absolute delight. Armando Ariostini brings fine delivery and immaculate humour to his portrayal of the weak and immoral Eisenstein. Francesco Grollos Alfred has a wonderful honeyed tenor voice, and it is easy to see why Rosalinde finds his charms so attractive. Frank, Giampiero Ruggeri, brought fine virile tones to the role of the puppet master manipulating the plot, and Francesca Provvisionato sings with all the humour and verve that Orlofsky requires.

It must be stressed that both the acting and the singing are of the highest order.

Under Donato Renzetti, the orchestra sparkles from the first note of the overture, and maintains racy vivacity and wit throughout the evening. The chorus is in cracking form.

The extended dance scenes are performed with the greatest virtuosity and style, and it already seems almost too much fortune to get both the impeccable grace and refinement of Carla Fracci and the superbly agile leaps of the lithe Mario Marozzi included in them. But then, as on stage final harmony returns and the pacifying powers of champagne are toasted, the audience finds itself surrounded by swirling couples waltzing up and down the aisles.

What a wonderful evening a veritable embarras de richesse!

Teatro dellOpera di Roma, Piazza Beniamino Gigli 1, Rome

Tel. 06 481601

Further performances 19,21,22, 23 December