I’m waiting for someone to translate Die Fledermaus not as “The Bat,” but as “The Man Who Dressed Up Like A Bat and Went Off On A Lark.” Johann Strauss II’s charming operetta is all about disguise and revelry, and not at all about spooky vampires and scary, flying rodents-the creaky wooden seats in the Oak Park Arts Center notwithstanding.

American Opera Group’s production, which opened Sunday, Nov. 26 and runs through Dec. 3, is all about people who really have a ball singing. One could feel the thrill of great vocal performance onstage, in the orchestra, and in the small but devoted audience, which should have been larger, given the rare opportunity to enjoy a fully staged opera in Oak Park.

Johann Strauss, with an impressive Viennese pedigree in the popular orchestra music of his day, penned operettas in a style that many English speakers associate with Gilbert & Sullivan across the Channel. The Austrian public ate up his peppy tunes, heavy on the waltz and the polka, with athletic yodeling melodies that helped the Viennese urbanites forget the strains of keeping up with high society in the glittering post-Biedermeier era.

Enjoying this production of Fledermaus, in English, with a little French and faux Hungarian thrown in, will ease the strains of trying to keep ahead of the Chicagoland rat-race in December. The wily plot offers plenty of diversions, with the blame casually placed on champagne (Korbel in this case). The 25-year-old Russian Prince Orlofsky, a trouser role sung by Nancy Henninger, is like today’s Internet millionaire, needing nothing and bored with everything except a good joke, of which there are plenty at his sumptuous villa. The womanizing, drunken jail warden, sung and acted by Marvin Levin, who bumbled and staggered about appropriately, has 32 days on his calendar.

While Rosalinda, the subtly scheming matron sung by Arlene Alvarado, gets the final bow, it is Adele, the chambermaid who will get your attention. Sung by Oak Park native Greta Ball, this role requires a crystal-clear voice in the stratosphere, a snappy delivery of one-liners, and a believable heap of melodramatic baggage, all of which Ms. Ball delivered with suave naturalness. Her rendition of the famous “Laughing Song” (Mein Herr, Marquis/My dear marquis), in which she tries to convince her master that she, of course, has nothing in common with the lower class, is rife with sarcasm and rings valiantly throughout the theatre. Ms. Ball’s Adele not only has the endurance to sing a demanding score with energy and mastery up to the very last high note, but her pacing on stage is exceptional, both elegant and tongue-in-cheek.

By the end of Act III, the confusion of who’s who finally begins to unravel, with the mastermind of the entire charade, Oliver Neal Medina as Dr. Falke, aka the original bat, revealed. Alfred, the disenfranchised opera singer who has wooed Rosalinda in a melodious subplot is finally released from prison, and Rosalinda and her roving husband, sung with vigor by Peder Reiff, embrace in humble forgiveness, their reunion celebrated with yet another toast of bubbly.

R. Paul Williams, artistic director and Kim Diehnelt, conductor, have given us a Fledermaus that is up close and personal. The cast gets high marks for raw talent and sincerity, in spite of the fact that they are by and large acting out a farce. (By the way, you can meet them after each show.) Full of cheery waltzes, rousing polkas, and roaring voices, this production will leave you wanting to pop a champagne cork yourself. Perhaps the only reason not to go is if you thought it was all about bats.

Die Fledermaus continues Dec. 1 at 7:30 and Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. For tickets call 708/434-0485 or visit www.AmericanOperaGroup.org. American Opera Group’s next production is L’essence de Carmen, an adaptation of the best of Bizet’s opera, Feb. 25-March 4 at the Oak Park Arts Center.

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