Mistaken Identities – Who, what and how? | Welsh National Opera

Mistaken Identities – Who, what and how?

22 May 2017

The theme of mistaken identity is forever recurring in film and theatre. Being able to bring suspense, extra drama and comedy, it is a tool that can complement all manner of subject matter, and therefore it’s not surprising that the art of opera also has its fair share of stories of mistaken identity. In fact, our two Summer Season operas adopt the theme and it is an integral part of both plots. 

Highlights from the movies, of course, include blockbusters such as Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Joel Coen’s The Big Lebowski; recognised as the best ever mistaken identity films. But the theme goes far further back into history. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, written at the beginning of the 17th century, tells the tale of the heroine Viola as she disguises herself as a young man named Cesario, and ends up in a comedic love triangle. 

The hilarity of mistaken identity tales most definitely shines through the stories of Die Fledermaus and Der Rosenkavalier, our two Summer Season operas

We follow the characters in Die Fledermaus as they, in various disguises, negotiate their way through a masked ball. With a husband flirting with a Hungarian Countess (who is actually his wife in disguise), a chamber maid trying to convince everybody she’s an actress, all being manipulated by the vengeful Dr Falke, Die Fledermaus is a festival of laughs and frolicking fun. 

In Der Rosenkavalier, on the other hand, the Marschallin disguises her young lover Octavian as a girl to avoid scandal, with subsequent events leading to a love triangle of great proportions. The story balances hilarity and poignancy in equal measure.

These two beautiful operas, both set in beautiful Vienna, share great qualities, while still providing something for everyone.