Brisbane Baroque & Göttingen International Handel Festival
Queensland Conservatorium Griffith Theatre
April 10 – 18 2015
Reviewed by Jackson Kellaway
Handel composed forty-nine works for the opera stage before turning his attention to the oratorio form. Faramondo was his thirty-ninth.
A stunning three-act production written by George Frederic Handel, Faramondo was a fitting centrepiece for Brisbane’s inaugural Baroque Festival (April 10 – 18 2015). Faramondo was seen for a strictly limited season in Brisbane, which is unfortunate because this show should enjoy a longer run and larger audiences.
Director, Paul Curran, did a fantastic job with this production, staged originally as part of Gottingen International Handel Festival. With an extensive list of operatic productions to his name there is no person more suitable to tackle Faramondo, bringing all the elements together to create a superb modern production.
Three main sets worked on wheels and took us between the dining room, Rosimonda’s bedroom, a gambling room, and two different alleys. A fly was dropped downstage for scene changes with a picture of a deer being tackled by wolves, which helped create a dramatic atmosphere. Songs or whole scenes would then occur in front of the fly during the scene change. (Designer Gary McCann).
A production like this wouldn’t be anything without its musos, Erin Helyard and the Orchestra of the Antipodes, and Brendan Joyce conducting the orchestra. A phenomenal cast – the vocals were absolutely mind-blowing – starred Jennifer Rivera (Faramondo) and Anna Devin (Clotilde). Rivera brought softness to the character, a soldier who always has someone trying to kill him.
Tai Oney played the passionate Adolfo. Oney’s voice is angelic. Words can’t describe the feeling that comes over you when you hear his voice.
Creepy came in all forms with Gernando, played by Christopher Lowry. The King of the Swabians carried a pair of ladies underwear in his pocket, which he would take out and tenderly sniff.
The ensemble of 12 filled the stage and each played several roles required to flesh out the rich, rather complex narrative. A special mention to the stunning Samantha Paterson, who changed from a stunning dress when playing a guest of Gustavo’s to a grungy punk follower of Gernando. Grungy punk has never looked better.
The story of Faramondo is indeed a complicated one, with major revelations occurring by the end of the show to dissolve all the fighting, allowing everyone to live a fairy tale ending.
Faramondo can be tricky to navigate but fortunately, audience members were given an A4 sheet of paper before the show. On one side a cast list and a summary of each act was printed for any audience members having trouble following along. On the opposite side was a complicated and very handy family tree.
A rare performance, Faramondo was certainly a treat for those who managed to see it.