Cincinnati Opera is a whole lot of fun

By John David Back Yesterday, I strolled along the blazing blocks of downtown to catch the opening night of the Cincinnati Opera's season at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. "Die Fledermaus," showing again June…

By John David Back

Yesterday, I strolled along the blazing blocks of downtown to catch the opening night of the Cincinnati Opera‘s season at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. “Die Fledermaus,” showing again June 18, is a story about a man playing an absurdly elaborate prank on his friend. Despite the German name, the opera itself is entirely in English.

Let me repeat that: The Opera was entirely in English.

Starting at the beginning, though, I’ll say one of the most important aspects of the Opera was the successful tying of my bow tie on only my second try. I saw outfits ranging from traditional Austrian garb (the story takes place in Vienna) to untucked polos to a group of four men who all had on white tuxedos and kept fixing each other’s hair. It seemed to me as long as you weren’t wearing a bro-tank, you could come in whatever you wanted.

Two things struck me as we took our seats in the right rear orchestra:

  1. Holy hell, The entire place smelled like that perfume you know your grandma just douses all over herself before heading to church. I thought I was either going to go into a sneezing fit or the sprinkler system was going to activate and drown us.
  2. The set design and construction was absolutely incredible. It looked like a scene from a Wes Anderson movie (and I guess that was on purpose). The stage looked like a bright blue hotel lobby, and performers in impeccable period costumes were constantly in motion across the stage.

Photo: IU Jacobs School of Music

The performance started with a rousing rendition of the national anthem. A perfumed beauty in front of us must have been in the opera herself, because I’ve never heard a more enthusiastic patriot in my life.

“Die Fledermaus” (I never did learn what a Fledermaus was) (editors note: It means “the bat.”) is a crisscrossing storyline of tricks and pranks and mistaken identities. There’s a ton of alcohol consumption on stage. I’d actually be curious to learn how they pretend to drink so damn much. Half of the male leads all become falling down drunk. And they do fall down. Opera is crazy.


JDB at Opera

Going to the opera sounded, to say the least, daunting. My pal Chris, who attended with me, slammed happy hour beers at Nicholson’s beforehand in the hope he’d fall asleep. Well, he didn’t. We laughed our asses off, sneezed at the perfume some, and generally had a great time.

The orchestra was great, the singing was absolutely incredible, and the sets were maybe the best I’ve ever seen. During the third act, the entire set slides on hidden tracks to review more of a ballroom. There was raucous applause here.

Reasons to go to see “Die Fledermaus” (or another opera):

  • This one was in English. Very easy to understand if English is a language you know.
  • The whole thing is about getting raging drunk and partying.
  • There are sequined women dancing and handsomely groomed men. Someone for everyone.
  • You will laugh, hard, if you pay attention to the quirky details.
  • You won’t need to buy perfume for a month.
  • Chacun à son goût – meaning “each to one’s own taste,” or get out there and live your life.


Photo by Zackariah Cole //

John David Back is a Cincinnati native who lives and works in OTR. He’s an avid reader and a mediocre writer who loves the experience of art and beauty. Tell him what he should experience and send fan mail to