Belladiva’s Aria Moderna


Aria Moderna

Belladiva and Little Black Dress Productions

Anywhere Theatre Festival

State Library Gallery

May 17 2013


Reviewed by Guy Frawley



This review was totally lost in the ether for a little while but now HERE IT IS!


In the hands and voices of Belladiva, the operatic aria is revised, refreshed, renewed and revamped



Performed in the gallery of the State Library the ladies of Bella Diva (Alicia Cush, Bethan Ellsmore, Laura Coutts and Michelle Bull) performed their show Aria Moderna for one night only, and I must say that I wish they’d been able to have a longer engagement.


Fitting that a group who aim to take opera out of its classically gilded box and to reposition it for a modern audience were to be showcased as a part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival, a festival working with a similar goal in mind. Their blending of the classical with contemporary production methods, effects and instruments created a rich sonic experience and I’d love to hear more from them. I imagine that their development meetings would have been great fly on the wall material, listening to the different ideas and approaches they would have come to the table with especially when you consider the massive and broad ranging back catalogue offered by the genre.


Each draped in a crimson empire silhouette gown with their hair styled into dramatic form, they presented themselves almost goddess like in stature and presence (sticking within the operatic vein here); they really did look one breastplate and a spear short of a phalanx of Valkyries. Whilst the performance began front stage centre, as it continued, it morphed into a kind of theatre-in-the-round performance, differing from the normal interpretation of this style as they moved around the perimeter with the audience remaining in the centre, ‘theatre-in-the-around’ perhaps?


The program for the evening allowed the performance to move with a liquid fluidity, with the spotlight roaming throughout their solo and group performances. The electronica production values of the performance also added to this somewhat fluid feeling by allowing the individual songs to melt into one another, I at times found myself almost falling into the music, lulled into a somewhat meditative state of mind by the organic sound effects and beautiful clarity of their voices.


Whilst I enthusiastically applaud their effort to blend musical genres the least effective part of the evening was for me the occasional English translations they adopted. I’m not sure why they chose to translate the original lyrics as I found it both distracting and pointless as I was only able to pick up on every second or third word anyway. In the future I’d love to hear more of their collaborative fusion work but do so hope they stick to the original lyrics.


I’m kicking myself that I didn’t pick up a copy of their album on the way out after the performance and I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes (and ears) open in the hope of being able to see another performance from Belladiva.



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