Archive for the 'Opera' Category

19
Jul
17

Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse

Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse

Opera Queensland

QPAC Playhouse

July 14 – 29 2017

 

Reviewed by Geoff Waite

 

Being a life-long fan of Gilbert and Sullivan after my introduction to their wonderful operettas as a high school lad performing in Trial by Jury, The Pirates of Penzance, and HMS Pinafore, and in later years The Mikado, I was excited to be attending Opera Queensland’s production of Ruddigore. Perhaps one of the least-known Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, Ruddigore has not often been performed here, so this was a welcome opportunity to enjoy it. And enjoy it I did.

 

While the original opening night of Ruddigore on 22 January 1887 was less than successful, after some modification it went on to be well accepted. Of all the G&S operettas, Gilbert later declared Ruddigore to be one of his three favourites, the others being Utopia and The Yeomen of the Guard.

 

 

In a satirical take on the Victorian Melodrama genre, Ruddigore’s farcical plot employs curses, witches, and disguises, and the intricacies of this bizarre and convoluted plot can be difficult to grasp.The Baronets of Ruddigore are subject to a terrible curse placed on them by a witch long ago – each of the successive Baronets must commit some kind of a crime every single day or they will die in terrible agony. Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, the Baronet of Ruddigore, has been living as a farmer, Robin Oakapple (Bryan Proberts), for years, working up the courage to ask a beautiful village maiden, Rose Maybud (Natalie Christie Peluso), for her hand. Rose is also keen on Robin but as a woman she is bound by the etiquette of the day and cannot tell him of her feelings. In the village in which they live, a group of professional bridesmaids who are desperate to officiate at a wedding, any wedding, none having been celebrated for six months, are encouraging this union. Robin, who was supposed to have died but has been hiding in disguise while his younger brother, Sir Despard Murgatroyd (Jason Barry Smith), assumed the title and the curse, is hiding the secret. His foster-brother, Richard Dauntless (Kanen Breen), a sailor, wins Rose’s ‘affection’ after undertaking to woo her on behalf of the timid Robin. Richard later reveals Robin’s existence to Despard, and Robin then must take his place and the responsibility of committing a crime every day in order to abide by the terms of the curse and continue to live. In the meantime, Mad Margaret (Christine Johnston) who has been driven to madness by her love for the lost Sir Despard Murgatroyd, has appeared and is reunited with Despard, who is now free.

 

 

In Ruddigore Castle, Robin (now Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd) has difficulty perpetrating suitably bad crimes, annoying his ancestors who emerge as ghosts from their portraits in the gallery to berate him. After complying with the direction of his uncle, Sir Roderic Murgatroyd (Andrew Collis) to abduct a lady from the village as a suitable crime, the lady abducted happens to be Dame Hannah (Roxane Hislop), Sir Roderic’s former love and fiancé. They are reunited in love. Robin then submits to Roderic that under the terms of the curse, a Baronet of Ruddigore can die only by refusing to commit a daily crime. Refusing would therefore basically lead to suicide, but suicide is itself, a crime. Thus he reasons, his predecessors “ought never to have died at all’. Roderic agrees with this logic and Robin is freed of the curse. All ends happily with the various couples together again.

 

 

From the light, bright opening, set in an outdoor tea-house by the sea and later in the dark depths of the Ruddigore Castle where the current cursed Baronet and his ancestors’ portraits dwell, the set (Richard Roberts) is nicely complemented by the lighting and effects of Andrew Meadows, giving a modern feel to a piece first performed in 1887, when one feels, the production would not have been so ‘light’. And a few modern terms thrown into the dialogue fit well. The emergence of the baronet ghosts from their portraits in the gallery is a special moment. The acting is tops and I particularly enjoyed the Frank Spencer-like attitude and reticence evident in Robin’s first encounter with Rose. As expected, the singing is exceptional, from leads and chorus alike, with The Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Roland Peelman providing exhilarating accompaniment with Sullivan’s music.

 

 

This is a comedy and much of the credit for the expression and impact of Gilbert’s libretto is due to the Director, Lindy Hume and her assistant and Choreographer, Rosetta Cook. The portrayal of Despard Murgatroyd and Mad Margaret as Salvation Army officers touting timbrels on their return to normal life is classic. And the extension of those timbrels to the whole cast for a rousing timbrel- shaking finale made a fitting end to a most enjoyable show that you should see.

21
Sep
16

Snow White

Snow White

La Boite, Opera Queensland & Brisbane Festival

The Roundhouse

September 3 – 24 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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My mother just spent more than 50 days in hospital – two hospitals actually, between two ICUs – and she continues to recover at home from complications following surgery, all due to a bug that travelled with her from one of the 5 Stans. I’ve also been sick since Brisbane Festival opening night and have stubbornly attended as much as possible, in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast, where people forget I’m based, without managing to keep up with the follow up, i.e. writing about what I’ve seen. I have, however, perhaps as some sort of procrastination, insisted on (mostly successfully although the place could be tidier) running a household with two extra people in it, getting to some social engagements, camping at North Shore despite coughing up a bigger storm than the one to hit us on the day we came home, and before that, finishing a 5-week teaching contract because unlike reviewing Brisbane theatre, teaching pays. An exhausting term, physically and emotionally. I’ve missed yoga and coffee dates and drinks and events. Everything online needs an overhaul, the garden needs love, and I’ve been postponing the spring cleaning since this time last year. I need new writers, I need new clothes and I need a new focus. But more on that later.

Luckily, most of the shows I see stay with me. And let’s quietly appreciate the archival value of even a late response. Here’s the first in a succession of catch ups, well overdue. Sorry about that.

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We enter The Roundhouse to a Disney soundtrack and chirping birdsong, eliciting an eerie sense of foreboding and at the same time, a false sense of security. This is a grim tale, much more so than the Grimm tale.

For the record, Disney’s classic animated Snow White unnerves me to this day.

The forest is inside, on the ceiling. The darkness is broken by fairy lights. Mirrors, the autumn leaves, the branches, a blood stained timber floor, musical instruments and kitchen chairs hanging from the forest canopy. Later, rose petals, sparkles… A tree house, the stairs running up the middle of it, musicians beneath it (the evocative space designed by Sarah Winter & striking lighting designed by Ben Hughes). I recognise Kanen Breen, like a lithe, glittering, corseted Cabaret Emcee, swanning around with his glass of red until it’s drained and settling next to a member of the audience for an intimate chat. He grins like The Cheshire Cat and moves on to the next victim, seated in front of us. I love Breen’s sparkling red nails and mouth, the essence of the infamous red apple, a reminder of the inherent evil and glamorous violence of this fairytale. He’s The Mirror. Of course he is.

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The Queen (Silvia Colloca) epitomises everything we love to loathe and fear and admire about the evil stepmother stereotype / ancient mother archetype. She’s sophisticated and sexy, intimidating, alluring…actually, she’s intoxicating. Colloca’s voice is a fallen angel’s, her lower register particularly rich and warm. Scintillating in black and red lace like a Spanish lady of the night, she’s exquisite, a Diva, seducing us effortlessly. As per the original version, without differentiation between biological mother and stepmother, she is one, she is all. Mother. Woman. Crone. Queen. Her tango with The Mirror is a luscious, almost lascivious affair. Choreographed by Rosetta Cook and Gavin Webber it’s the perfect vehicle to set these two up early as the stars of the show.

Zulya Kamalova’s compositions – enchanted swirling, pulsing, living, breathing things – take us out of ourselves and into this dark, dangerously glistening, shifting world of elegance, innocence and broken trust. A waltz spells out the mother-daughter relationship more clearly and succinctly than a few shouted lines of dialogue can do. We feel for them both. None of us actually want to grow old and weary and weathered, after all. Suzie Miller’s libretto succeeds in capturing varying perspectives on the power and fragility of women and the way we can examine our potential, our power, our perceived limitations, our ambitions, and what it is we’re prepared to do to be “happy” when we dare to look at ourselves in the mirror.

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This Little Lolita Snow White, the fairest of them all, is an innocent princess turned teen seductress. An innate talent, an inevitability; the product of her environment, perhaps… In her last desperate attempt to escape the clutches, and the axe, of The Hunter (Michael Tuahine), this Snow White becomes every mother’s worst nightclubbing, shame-walking nightmare. Steph Pickett gets the mix just right – she’s ingenue and expert, and sings like Fiona Apple/Jesska Hoop/Katie Noonan (and I see Katie in the bank of seats opposite us but miss her later to say hello to). It’s Act 1’s most contemporary piece, reminding me of the first 16 bars of Katzenjammer’s Hey Ho On the Devil’s Back in both its shape and tone. This is the moment the little girl becomes a woman, beautifully, frighteningly, authentically captured. The most amazing, game-changing piece of the show though is The Queen’s lament, truly exemplary vocal work, which must be heard to be believed. Colloca’s wailing resonates with us no matter how great or small our individual losses, and becomes a cry of utter despair for all mothers everywhere, for all humanity. She wails and groans her immense grief, singing over the unmoving body of her daughter. Singing over the bones. Lost. Empty. Willing her flesh and blood, her little Snow White, to come back to life, even when it will bring about her own undoing. This extended moment in time holds us in collective stillness, breathlessness, until the final haunting note fades. It’s the greatest Medea moment we’ve seen yet. This is an indescribable ache, which I’ll retain from this show for years yet. 

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The production continues past its perfect end though, redundantly taking us ten years into the future, when Snow White is with child and we see the pattern repeating. The story goes on… I would love to have left the story to go on unseen, leaving us hanging, after the devastating look that is exchanged between the two once the girl has realised her mother has tried multiple times to kill her. The rest amounts to the beginning of a poor sequel and undoes a little bit of the brilliance that is this new extraordinary work, so funny and lovely, and witty and gritty and gory.

I also enjoyed less than others may have, the opening of Act 2 involving Colloca-as-performer-as-The Queen, wrapped in her iconic cape, gliding down the stairs and moving through the audience to offer an apple to bemused audience members – “It’s not poisonous” – and sitting on stage to share a story from between the pages of Grimm’s Fairytales before morphing back into The Queen proper to go on with the tale. A gimmick that seems unnecessary in a work of such quality but one that must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Think about it. Do audiences need these breaks from the narrative to connect, to relate, to remember they’ve come here to experience another world? To help them recognise their world? Despite my questions, I see the opening night audience embrace every element of the production and so I muse, again, who am I to find fault with any tiny thing? Snow White is truly a work of art and I hope we see the original cast recording soon, if not a beautifully filmed version of the show at some stage.

Masterfully directed in this space by Lindy Hume, Snow White is an important, potent new work that reflects our enduring obsession with beauty, power, the mystical feminine and the wonder and majesty, the vital lessons of storytelling. An accomplished piece for a world premiere and perfect festival fare, Snow White is destined for lands far, far away. I hope you saw it here at least once. 

10
Apr
16

Banquet of Secrets

Banquet of Secrets
Brisbane Powerhouse & Victorian Opera
Brisbane Powerhouse Performance Space
April 7 – 9 2016

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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Featuring David Rogers-Smith, Dimity Shepherd, Michael Carman, Kanen Breen and Antoinette Halloran.

 

I wasn’t going to publish this review because everything I’ve seen about Banquet of Secrets is amazing; it’s been exceptionally well received by everyone in the country except me…and Sam, who has since referred to it as “Banquet of Boredom”.

As a reviewer, I often wonder about the value of putting my opinion out there at all.

When we write for free, we write for ourselves. And yes, while it would be nice to at least cover the cost of fuel, parking and dinner, and while we’re at it, a lovely little Wheels & Dollbaby number every month, I’m also just putting here for later, something that might be useful or interesting one day about Queensland theatre. Live performance disappears once it’s done, but some sort of intelligent or heartfelt response to the work is a worthwhile record of what our creatives are doing, and how they’re doing it, and where we’re heading together, surely.

I don’t know. It probably doesn’t help that I’m terribly inconsistent, and I continue to resist further tertiary study and the sort of academic writing that appears to be the only way to add any sort of gravitas to a body of work, and instead stay stubbornly more or less within my own little world. That’s right. Write for free, but only for yourself…….

In the case of Banquet of Secrets, I’d decided that since this year has been challenging enough already (and it’s only April!) it was hardly worth making a comment about it. Who am I to say it’s anything less than brilliant? I’ve wondered, “HAVE I MISSED THE POINT?” (if you loved it you will answer yes, yes I have) and, “WHAT IF I’M WRONG?” (if you loved it you will answer yes, yes I am) and, “WHO EVEN CARES?” and, “WHO WILL EVEN NOTICE IF I SAY NOTHING, OR IF XS DISAPPEARS FOR A WHILE?”, which is something I’ve been wondering a lot about lately. At the same time, on several different occasions, I’ve been told by industry friends that they always look forward to reading what’s here and I must publish this review because…well, perhaps other (louder) voices have offered accolades with which they also disagree.

So I persist with this blog (and the reviews that are not as favourable as some) because who even am I if I quit responding honestly to what I’m seeing? 

This work is certainly challenging. It’s probably some of Paul Grabowsky’s best work, brilliant by design, comprising complex orchestrations that boast multiple layers (and he conducts from the piano); entire worlds exist beneath discordant harmonies. I don’t mind a bit of discord (life is dishing up plenty of discord!), but it’s not my favourite new work and it might not be yours either… But will you say so? 

The reason musical theatre and opera remain separate is because they are separate entities. Each form has its merits and the two haven’t mixed well here.

Actually, they’re calling it “chamber music theatre” but chamber is more lilting and haunting, opera is slicker and music theatre more entertaining. The dialogue is cliched, uneventful, the banter not witty enough. The only real comedy comes from the waiter, who describes each course of a ridiculously decadent dinner in flowery language and declares triumphantly each time, “You’re welcome, thank you very much!” before exiting. He is clearly relieved not to play a larger part in the evening’s proceedings.

Kaneen Breen’s character, the host Jean Pierre, is the next best established (and next best dressed) character but he can only do so much with what he’s been given. Breen’s first solo, establishing that everything must be perfect, reveals the Last Supper premise and his final piece confirms it; it’s the only musical number to make me feel anything; his love, and admiration and appreciation for the friends is touching.

The opening scene however, a thunderstorm (Sound Design Jim Atkins, Lighting Design Matt Scott & Set Design Christina Smith; we’ll say nothing more of her costumes), does little to establish each of the four characters and doesn’t make us keen to hear more from them. The first ten minutes of the classic comedy Clue, inspired by the board game, should have provided Director, Roger Hodgman with some sense of setting up a similar story. Yes, yes, it’s all there, but we don’t believe a word of it. It’s a shame because they are such beautiful, accomplished vocalists and clearly capable of tackling meatier roles.

Unashamedly contrived, Banquet of Secrets makes a mockery of the quest to discover, develop and disseminate “new” art to intelligent audiences. While other writers struggle to garner support to bring their work to the stage, Steve Vizard and Grabowsky over promise and under deliver in this poor excuse for a musical theatre / opera hybrid. They’ve created an elitist monster, which rears its ugly head in a landscape that consistently offers more interesting and challenging work. It’s simply not audience friendly.

We see each secret coming and feel nothing for any of the four characters; predictably, a lawyer, a writer, a doctor and the collector, our host. We can’t ever be sure whether or not the friends meet in a restaurant, despite the program notes advising that this is the case according to the friends’ tradition. (It might have been a more intriguing night had events taken place in Jean Pierre’s home). Apart from the immediate breathtaking impact of the overhead ornate mirror, which is not used to its full effect, the staging is arbitrary, with musicians to one side and an under-utilised upright piano and bar setting opposite. The singers either stand across the downstage space or sit at the dining table. Quite often there is some aimless wandering around the table and through the space. Characters connect with each other by placing a hand on another’s shoulder as they pass, or holding a gaze for a moment too long… Oh! And one number is staged on the table top. Nuance is lost or never there to begin with.

The music is mostly jarring, largely repetitive (Sam enjoys it much less than I do; clearly the world of commercial radio is beginning to have an effect), and it doesn’t help the performers to embrace their characters in order to give us the guts (or hearts) of the people they claim to be. It’s all rather surface level, like a dinner with strangers might be. We never feel as if we get to know them and because we don’t know them we don’t feel any sympathy for them. As each secret is revealed we feel nothing. Transitions are slow and mostly awkward. There is polite applause at the end of each number,although a substantial number of older audience members give much more generous applause during the curtain call. I’m pleased that they’ve enjoyed it! Do we recall any of the melodies at this point? No. In fact, during the curtain call Sam reminds me: even CATS has a memorable tune…

And why didn’t we see them eat? And why didn’t the food on the plates match the foodie photos projected across the mirror’s tilted surface? Perhaps it’s okay to gloss over these details in “chamber music theatre”???

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As an experiment, Banquet of Secrets is an interesting attempt to seek a broader audience but sadly, it’s self-indulgent and reeking of desperation, like the mediocre children we insist – not all of us insist – have what it takes to “make it”. Ugh.

 

Banquet of Secrets appears to have been written for the elite old-school upper classes; the Racer Cruisers. They spend vast amounts of money on well appointed, comfortable racing yachts, defeating both purposes and impressing those who know no better.

 

 

Read Grabowsky’s tribute to Prince.

 

Hear more of Grabowsky’s work at QPAC this week.

 

21
Mar
16

The Rabbits

 

The Rabbits

An Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company co-production in association with West Australian Opera.

Commissioned by Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival.

QPAC

QPAC Playhouse

March 16 – 20 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

'The Rabbits' Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia - 2015 Production - 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 - All Rights Reserved

‘The Rabbits’ Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia – 2015 Production – 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

The rabbits came many grandparents ago…

What an extraordinary experience, to be offered a taste of The Rabbits during APAM (we saw a delicious 20-minute excerpt), and then be treated to the entire visual and aural feast last week on Opening Night. Commissioned by Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival, Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company assembled some of Australia’s finest talent to create a stage adaptation of John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s picture book (open-hearted Adaptation and Direction by John Sheedy). This is a multi-award winning genre-defying production featuring a detailed score by Kate Miller-Heidke, additional music and arrangements by Iain Grandage, and libretto by Lally Katz. Rachael Maza has been instrumental as Indigenous Consultant. It doesn’t disappoint. However, unlike The Secret River, which also features magnificent music by Grandage, musical direction by Isaac Hayward and a heavy, heavy tale of the displacement and mistreatment of our Indigenous people, The Rabbits feels less optimistic. Poppy, who is nine and so smart, disagrees. She says,

We hear the bird calls in the beginning, and the bird calls at the end sound like we can sort it out. We can have our little piece of nature and they can have theirs. Even better, we can try harder to share the land. And the water. And the sky. In the end everything belongs to no one and everyone. We all live here together now.

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Hollie Andrew who plays Coda, the marsupial who sings The Kite Song when the children are taken away, told Elissa Blake, “My mother was adopted so we don’t know where we are from,” she says. “I don’t know who my people are. So I’m singing on behalf of my ancestors in a lot of ways. I imagine my ancestors are calling out to me. I absolutely dig into it. It’s been a gift as an actor. It’s pretty raw but it’s healed me in a lot of ways, too.

“I love that this show says what has happened and then poses the question, ‘where do we go from here?'” Andrew says. “We need to own what has happened and together find a way to move forward. That’s the beauty of this story.” The story unsettles us and The Kite Song breaks our hearts; it’s devastating and we ache… 

I ache, I ache, I ache inside

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We ache as Kate Miller-Heidke mourns the loss of the children, wailing and calling to all the people and ancestors and spirits and spirit animals ever, everywhere. Her grief is exquisite, something we can never (should never) un-hear. She’s the all-seeing Bird, witness to events and narrator of our tragic tale. Resplendent in white and delicate feathers, glistening with the sky and the stars and the sea and the bright eyes of the whole world, from her central vantage point high above the land, she looks over its inhabitants without the power to put a stop to the desolation brought by the rabbits. Her voice is pure, ethereal, electrical. It has the power to permeate and affect, deeply, audiences of all ages and political persuasions. The only other performer in this country with the gift to bewitch us with her voice in this way is Katie Noonan, and I’d love to see her sing this role too. (We say hi to Katie on our way out of the Playhouse but we have to cut the conversation short in order to honour our commitment to another opening night around the corner…).

The band is slick, though slightly (and suitably) dishevelled, and quite fun, at times in good spirits and at times more sombre as the story dictates, comprising Isaac Hayward (MD and cello, piano & piano accordion), Rob Mattesi (trumpet), Keir Nuttall (guitar and electronics), Stephanie Zarka (bass and tuba). They’re front and centre when a false fire alarm stops the show at the forty minute mark and we wonder if we’ll see the end of it before having to get up and go. The cast and musicians collect themselves after the curtain fails to drop completely, and they resume the show some minutes later. It’s a live-theatre-thing, a reminder that anything can happen, giving us time to cringe for a bit longer after the bawdy pub song, Hop Hop Hooray! 

'The Rabbits' Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia - 2015 Production - 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 - All Rights Reserved

‘The Rabbits’ Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia – 2015 Production – 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

The rabbits are bombastic, very British, Gilbert & Sullivan style operatic singers, each with his own quirky personality. (Kaneen Breen as the Scientist is especially memorable). The marsupials on the other hand, are grounded contemporary music theatre/pop vocalists (I’d love to hear more from Marcus Corowa); they remind me stylistically of The Lion King and Disney generally. Friends tell me after the show that this combination isn’t their favourite aspect of the production but I like the stark contrast, and I can appreciate that it’s part of the strategy now, whether or not it was originally intended as such, to draw a more diverse audience.

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Visually too, it’s a stark and sumptuous production, beautifully conveying the essence of this great Southern land, its creatures, its colours, its textures, its heat, and all its hope and hopelessness. The production looks enough like the pages of the book to satisfy fans of Tan’s original illustrations, and yet it’s not so immense and grotesque as to frighten..the children. If we’re honest – and we are – I still find the original illustrations quite frightening. (Designer Gabriela Tylesova, Lighting Designer Trent Suidgeest, Sound Designer Michael Waters). The final image particularly has me holding my breath, desperate for the marsupial and the rabbit to step across – or around – the reflecting pool to embrace one another, or grasp each other’s hands or something but I know they’ll stay on opposite sides, staring at their own reflections, because it’s the final awful (hopeful?) image from the book.

The Rabbits, in story and style, is truly for all people. If only we can learn from this rich and challenging sixty-minute tale, and from so many more, and move forward together, hand in hand. This feeling, long after the curtain has properly come down, is the power of theatre, of storytelling, and why our stories must be told and treasured, and questioned, and told again and again.

Who will save us from the rabbits?

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Comments on (the book) The Rabbits 

The parallels with a real history of colonisation in Australia and around the world are obvious, and based on detailed research, in spite of the overt surrealism of the imagery and the absence of direct references. It was named Picture Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council, which in part generated some controversy due to it’s confronting themes, and was attacked on several occasions for being ‘politically correct propaganda’, but only by right wing conservatives of course. In spite of this (or because of it), the book went on to win numerous awards in Australia, the US and UK, and is studied widely in secondary schools. It would seem that some of my concepts and designs were unacknowledged inspiration for a section of the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, although I’ve never been able to find out if this is true.

One reason for the initial controversy is that The Rabbits is a picture book, and therefore thought to be children’s literature, and wrongly assumed to be didactic, whereas it had been originally conceived as a book for older readers, and generally difficult to categorise. Some children may get a lot out of it, but generally it defies most picture book conventions and is not necessarily a good choice for pleasant bedtime reading!

15
Feb
16

QUARTET

 

Quartet

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

January 30 – February 21 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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QTC’s production of Ronald Harwood’s Quartet coincides with the passing of a great artist and industry leader, the much-loved Carol Burns. This production is dedicated to Carol, “matriarch of stage and screen”, honoured last Monday night in a moving tribute, which took place on the Playhouse stage, beneath Bruce McKinven’s beautifully realised conservatory set. The industry – our close-knit arts community – came together to celebrate her life and her craft, at which she worked tirelessly until December last year. Many friends generously shared their stories about working with Carol. You can read what Kate Wilson shared with us here.

Carol Burns – was one of the most uncompromising, truly alive human beings I have known. To have known her is to have experienced a force of blazing energy that came from deep inside her – on stage and in person. At times, she seemed almost to glow.

– Kate Wilson

Quartet brings together on stage four extraordinary artists – Kate Wilson (Soprano, Jean), Trevor Stuart (Baritone, Wilfred), Andrew McFarlane (Tenor, Reginald) & Christine Amor (Mezzo-Soprano, Cecily) – to remind us of so many things… Director, Andrea Moor notes, “The themes of Quartet are acutely in focus for the Queensland theatre community right now, resonating with the universal nature of Ronald Harwood’s writing. We expect a rich and brilliant cultural life and yet how much do we support those who give us this experience?” As a show of the utmost respect and support, Moor has enveloped this play and its players in a big, warm embrace to emanate the sort of gorgeous feelings you get when you walk into Grandma’s kitchen and smell the cookies she’s baked especially for you, just because.

There is a “peculiar fascination some opera lovers have for superannuated opera singers who still perform before the public. Their frailty and artistry combined with a reluctance to see their careers end is part of what is so touching about these rare people.”

Opera lovers will realize that Harwood and, perhaps, Hoffman took inspiration from the marvelous documentary, “Il Bacio di Tosca” (“Tosca’s Kiss”), about the life of real retired musicians at the Casa di Riposo in Milan that Giuseppe Verdi, who conceived of it, paid for its construction and is buried there, called “la mia opera più bella” (“my most beautiful work”). I have visited this home often and have had the pleasure of meeting and listening to performances by these wonderful old artists. 

A recent development at the Casa di Riposo is that young musicians from foreign countries also live there, studying with the older artists and providing company and a loving ear for recollections. This is a wonderful place for opera lovers to support. The institution counts among its past supporters Renata Tebaldi and Luciano Pavarotti, whose names are carved into a wall in the atrium.

– Fred Plotkin

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Quartet celebrates the individual – our talents, our quirks – but more so, community and connection, drawing attention to the unlikely friendships we form and lose and rediscover…

Harwood’s text is tightly, neatly penned, pulling together the stories and precious memories (as well as those that are less precious and best forgotten) of four retired opera singers who have been put out to pasture – imagine the most elegantly appointed pasture if you will, romantically lit by David Walters – and in doing so, opens our eyes and awakens our senses to the simple joys and frustrations of every day, elderly lives. (You might remember the 2012 film, directed by Dustin Hoffman). We recognise the strength and fiery spirit of independent souls still very much alive inside frail, failing bodies. Balancing wistful glances into the past with bright-eyed glimpses of the future (or what’s left of it!), this show is a strange, sweet comfort, directed and delivered with full, glowing hearts. It’s easy to forget, after all, that one day, given good health and good fortune, in just no time at all, we too will be old…er.

The grace and wisdom and wit and pensiveness of old age comes across beautifully, as does the dry, mostly gentle humour of those who were once “great” in the eyes of their peers and the public, and some more comfortable now than others in their new state of grace. With each performer displaying various physical ailments, and the unique qualities of his or her character, these fascinating people become fully realised on stage (there are no simple stereotypes, nor any over sentimentality), earning our admiration and heartfelt sympathy. Hilarity comes with their wry observations and the relentless sexual references from Trevor Stuart’s character, Wilfred, which are more often than not directed at Cecily, brought to life with gusto and child-like joy by Christine Amor. She’s rather forgetful and fidgety, and I bet you know – or once knew – someone just like her. 

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Stuart might be that odd and slightly creepy ageing guy who steals a look at legs and breasts when you stop at the library or the IGA if it were not for his delightful grin and rapid-fire delivery of all things a workplace or public place or shared living space should now be proudly void of. His comic timing is impeccable. For Wilfred, a cheeky pinch on the bum isn’t sexual harassment, it’s simply friendly, and persistent efforts to bed Cecily are light and funny, despite our acknowledgement from the stalls of his rather old-fashioned and increasingly tiresome behaviour. Had it been seen in real life, he might be the uncle or the father-in-law who misses out on a return invitation to the Christmas dinner table. Wilfred is THAT GUY. Stuart’s second act costume takes the cake and he clearly relishes every opportunity to draw our attention to it.

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Kate Wilson’s Jean is the disregarded diva, a woman of substance and immeasurable talent but with few real friends left in life and so little self confidence that when the mask drops we see at first only a shadow of her former self. She hides a deeply realised fear and the private shame of letting a vital relationship dissolve into nothingness. Andrew McFarlane’s Reginald, a true gentleman, all class, is debonair and adorable to watch. The connection created on stage by these two is that magical thing of theatre, an intimacy that transpires as something we might seek ourselves if only we’re brave enough and true enough in our everyday lives.

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Act 1 feels limited by a garden terrace design utilising the narrow space in front of a lush green curtain, which allows very little room for movement, however; it’s a text focused play, and there are four back stories that must be established early on to make this fine character piece ring true. Each story is gradually revealed through the insights (and snipes) of the other personalities on stage as much as it is by the individuals themselves. Act 2 opens up splendidly, putting us inside at last, the stunning atrium of the establishment, a living and entertaining space that also serves as the dressing room (ladies on one side, gents on the other) before our four stars step forward into their light to perform the famed Quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto. They lip synch it (does anyone expect them to actually sing?), and so well studied is the technique that we are quite convinced of their past success in the opera world. Sound design by Tony Brumpton is on point throughout, down to the last pretty twitter of birdsong.

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Quartet is a beautiful, lingering, lovingly crafted character piece boasting great moments of quick, witty comedy and rare insight into the whimsy and reality of the elders of our tribe, perfectly suitable for all ages. Continues until February 21 at QPAC before touring.

CHECK THIS OUT! QPAC Membership – be part of our heart

Production pics by Rob Maccoll

 

22
Jun
15

Helpmann Award Nominations 2015

 

Helpmann Award Nominations 2015

 

If awards equate to success for you, the Helpmann’s are the top of the heap.

 

Because I’m vaguely on strike for a bit while David Williamson’s Dream Home has my attention, I’ll share the nominations as per suzygoessee because now that Augusta Supple is busy with other projects and I (still) need to know what’s happening in Sydney, I sometimes glance at what Suzy Wrong is seeing, and you know I like to share the blog love. Check her out!

 

 

This year’s Helpmann Awards, hosted by Todd McKenney, will be presented live at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre on July 27 2015. Watch the live simulcast from wherever you are via foxtelarts.com.au

 

 

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BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
ANDREW UPTON
Endgame (Sydney Theatre Company)
CLARE WATSON
What Rhymes with Cars and Girls (Melbourne Theatre Company)
KIP WILLIAMS
Suddenly Last Summer (Sydney Theatre Company)
SARAH GOODES
Switzerland (Sydney Theatre Company)

 

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY
HELEN THOMSON
After Dinner (Sydney Theatre Company)
JULIE FORSYTH
Endgame (Melbourne Theatre Company)
PAMELA RABE
Beckett Triptych – Footfalls (State Theatre Company of South Australia)
SARAH PEIRSE
Endgame (Sydney Theatre Company)

 

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
JULIE FORSYTH
Night on Bald Mountain (Malthouse Theatre)
PAMELA RABE
The Glass Menagerie (Belvoir)
ROBYN NEVIN
Suddenly Last Summer (Sydney Theatre Company)
SARAH PEIRSE
Switzerland (Sydney Theatre Company)

 

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY
BRUCE SPENCE
Endgame (Sydney Theatre Company)
GLENN HAZELDINE
After Dinner (Sydney Theatre Company)
JOHN BELL
As You Like It (Bell Shakespeare)
LASARUS RATUERE
Kill the Messenger (Belvoir)

 

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
HUGO WEAVING
Endgame (Sydney Theatre Company)
HUNTER PAGE-LOCHARD
Brothers Wreck (Belvoir)
PETER CARROLL
Oedipus Rex (Belvoir)
STEVE RODGERS
Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Porn (Griffin Theatre Company and Perth Theatre Company)

 

BEST PLAY
CALPURNIA DESCENDING
Malthouse Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company
ENDGAME
Sydney Theatre Company
THE GLASS MENAGERIE
Belvoir
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER
Sydney Theatre Company

 

endgame_stc

 

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A MUSICAL
ANDREW HALLSWORTH
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
KATE CHAMPION and MICHELLE LYNCH
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Love Story on Stage (John Frost)
MICHAEL ASHCROFT and GEOFFREY GARRATT
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
STEVEN HOGGETT
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)

 

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
DEAN BRYANT
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
JOHN TIFFANY
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
LAURENCE CONNOR and JAMES POWELL
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
STUART MAUNDER AM
Into the Woods (Victorian Opera)

 

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
AMY LEHPAMER
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
CLAIRE LYON
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
KERRIE ANNE GREENLAND
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
LUCY MAUNDER
Into the Woods (Victorian Opera)

 

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
CAROLINE O’CONNOR
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
HELEN DALLIMORE
Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents)
MADELEINE JONES
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
PATRICE TIPOKI
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)

 

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BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
ALEX RATHGEBER
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
BRENT HALL
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
CHRIS DURLING
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
COLIN DEAN
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
EDDIE MULIAUMASEALI’I
Show Boat (The Production Company)
TREVOR ASHLEY
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)

 

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
HAYDEN TEE
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
SIMON GLEESON
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
TODD MCKENNEY
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
TODD MCKENNEY
La Cage Aux Folles (The Production Company)

 

BEST MUSICAL
ANYTHING GOES
Opera Australia and John Frost
DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC LOVE STORY ON STAGE
John Frost, Karl Sydow, Martin McCullum and Joyce Entertainment
LES MISÉRABLES
Cameron Mackintosh
ONCE
John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo

 

anythinggoes

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
ANNA CORDINGLEY
Masquerade (Griffin Theatre Company and State Theatre Company of South Australia)
DALE FERGUSON
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
GABRIELA TYLESOVA
The Rabbits (Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company)
GARY MCCANN
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque in association with QPAC)

 

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
GEOFF COBHAM
The Philip Glass Trilogy (State Opera Company, South Australia)
NICK SCHLIEPER
Macbeth (Sydney Theatre Company)
PAULE CONSTABLE
Faust (Opera Australia)
PAULE CONSTABLE
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
RACHEL BURKE
Marlin (Arena Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company)

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
CAMERON GOODALL and QUENTIN GRANT
Little Bird (State Theatre Company of South Australia)
KATE MILLER-HEIDKE with IAIN GRANDAGE
The Rabbits (Opera Australia)
MIKELANGELO and THE BLACKSEA GENTLEMEN
Masquerade (Griffin Theatre Company and State Theatre Company of South Australia)
TIM ROGERS
What Rhymes with Cars and Girls (Melbourne Theatre Company)

 

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION
ERIN HELYARD
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)
MARTIN LOWE
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
TIM ROGERS
What Rhymes with Cars and Girls (Melbourne Theatre Company)
TIMOTHY SEXTON
The Philip Glass Trilogy (State Opera South Australia)

 

BEST SCENIC DESIGN

DAN POTRA
The Perfect American (Brisbane Festival and Opera Queensland)
GEOFF COBHAM
Little Bird (State Theatre Company of South Australia)
MARG HORWELL
Marlin (Arena Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company)
MATT KINLEY
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN
CLIVE GOODWIN
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
JD BRILL, CLAIR GLOBAL and EAGLES
Eagles | History of the Eagles Live In Concert 2015 (The Eagles and Frontier Touring)
MICHAEL WATERS
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
MICK POTTER
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)

 

BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN WORK
AIDAN FENNESSY, MUSIC AND LYRICS BY TIM ROGERS
What Rhymes with Cars and Girls (Melbourne Theatre Company)
ARENA THEATRE COMPANY
Marlin (Arena Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company)
JOANNA MURRAY-SMITH
Switzerland (Sydney Theatre Company)
NICKI BLOOM with songs and music by CAMERON GOODALL and QUENTIN GRANT
Little Bird (State Theatre Company of South Australia)
OPERA AUSTRALIA and BARKING GECKO THEATRE COMPANY
The Rabbits (Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company)
TAMARA SAULWICK
Endings (Sydney Festival and Insite Arts)

 

BEST AUSTRALIAN CONTEMPORARY CONCERT
CHET FAKER | NATIONAL TOUR 2015
JIMMY BARNES | 30:30 HINDSIGHT GREATEST HITS TOUR 2014
KYLIE | KISS ME ONCE TOUR 2015
TINA ARENA RESET TOUR

 

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BEST CONTEMPORARY MUSIC FESTIVAL
BLUESFEST BYRON BAY
LANEWAY FESTIVAL
VIVID LIVE 2015
WOMADELAIDE 2015

 

BEST CONTEMPORARY INTERNATIONAL CONCERT
ED SHEERAN | X WORLD TOUR 2015
FOO FIGHTERS | SONIC HIGHWAYS WORLD TOUR 2015
PAUL SIMON and STING – ON STAGE TOGETHER
THE ROLLING STONES | 14 ON FIRE

 

BEST COMEDY PERFORMER
JUDITH LUCY
Judith Lucy – Ask No Questions of the Moth (Token Events)
MATT OKINE
The Other Guy (Century Entertainment)
NAZEEM HUSSAIN
Nazeem Hussain – Legally Brown (Live Nation)
RONNY CHIENG
You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About (Century Entertainment)
SAM SIMMONS
Sam Simmons – Spaghetti for Breakfast (Token Events)

 

BEST CABARET PERFORMER
BECCY COLE and LIBBY DONOVAN
The Cowgirl and the Showgirl (Adelaide Festival Centre Trust)
CAMILLE O’SULLIVAN
Camille O’Sullivan – Changeling (Arts Centre Melbourne)
DAVID CAMPBELL and JOHN BUCCHINO
David Campbell Sings John Bucchino (Luckiest Productions)
KIM SMITH
Nova Noir (Adelaide Festival Centre Trust)

 

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BEST BALLET OR DANCE WORK
FRAME OF MIND
Sydney Dance Company
MEETING
Antony Hamilton and Alisdair Macindoe
MOTION PICTURE
Lucy Guerin Inc
PRECIPICE
Rachel Arianne Ogle

 

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION
ANTONY HAMILTON
MEETING (Antony Hamilton Projects, Arts House and Insite Arts)
NATALIE WEIR
Natalie Weir’s The Red Shoes (Expressions Dance Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre)
RAFAEL BONACHELA
Frame of Mind (Sydney Dance Company)
STEPHEN PAGE
Patyegarang (Bangarra Dance Theatre)

 

BEST FEMALE DANCER IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION
CHLOE LEONG
William Forsythe’s Quintett (Sydney Dance Company)
ELISE MAY
Natalie Weir’s The Red Shoes (Expressions Dance Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre)
JESSE SCALES
William Forsythe’s Quintett (Sydney Dance Company)
MADELEINE EASTOE
Giselle (The Australian Ballet)

 

BEST MALE DANCER IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION
ALISDAIR MACINDOE
Motion Picture (Lucy Guerin Inc)
CASS MORTIMER EIPPER
William Forsythe’s Quintett (Sydney Dance Company)
DAVID MACK
William Forsythe’s Quintett (Sydney Dance Company)
JACK ZIESING
Natalie Weir’s The Red Shoes (Expressions Dance Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre)

 

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BEST VISUAL OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION
BEYOND THE CIRCA
Arts Centre Melbourne and Circa
DISLOCATE’S “IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK”
Marguerite Pepper Productions
THE PAPER ARCHITECT
Davy and Kristin McGuire and Perth International Arts Festival
TABAC ROUGE
Produced by Compagnie du Hanneton, presented by Sydney Festival

 

BEST DIRECTION OF AN OPERA
DAVID MCVICAR
Faust (Opera Australia)
DAVID MCVICAR
Don Giovanni (Opera Australia)
LEIGH WARREN
Philip Glass Trilogy (State Opera of South Australia)
PAUL CURRAN
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)

 

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BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA
ANNA DEVIN
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)
ANNA STARUSHKEVYCH
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)
NICOLE CAR
Don Giovanni (Opera Australia)
TARYN FIEBIG
Don Giovanni (Opera Australia)

 

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA
CAITLIN HULCUP
Iphigenie en Tauride (Pinchgut Opera)
JENNIFER RIVERA
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)
LATONIA MOORE
Aida – Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour (Opera Australia)
NICOLE CAR
Faust (Opera Australia)

 

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA
CHRISTOPHER LOWREY
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)
SHANE LOWRENCEV
Don Giovanni (Opera Australia)
TEDDY TAHU RHODES
Faust (Opera Australia)
WARWICK FYFE
The Flying Dutchman (Victorian Opera)

 

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA
ADAM DIEGEL
Madama Butterfly (English National Opera, Metropolitan Opera and Lithuanian National Opera)
CHRISTOPHER PURVES
The Perfect American (Brisbane Festival and Opera Queensland)
CLAUDIO SGURA
Tosca (Opera Australia)
MICHAEL FABIANO
Faust (Opera Australia)
TEDDY TAHU RHODES
Don Giovanni (Opera Australia)

 

BEST OPERA
FARAMONDO (Brisbane Baroque)
FAUST (Opera Australia)
MADAMA BUTTERFLY (English National Opera, Metropolitan Opera and Lithuanian National Opera)
THE PHILIP GLASS TRILOGY (State Opera South Australia)

 

phillipglasstrilogy

 

BEST CHAMBER AND/OR INSTRUMENTAL ENSEMBLE CONCERT
GOLDNER STRING QUARTET, MUSICA VIVA INTERNATIONAL CONCERT SERIES NATIONAL TOUR 2015
Goldner String Quartet for Musica Viva Australia
LES ARTS FLORISSANTS and LE JARDIN DES VOIX IN Â JARDIN Ã L’ITALIENNE
Melbourne Recital Centre, Sydney Opera House and Perth International Arts Festival
THE SIXTEEN
Melbourne Recital Centre, Sydney Opera House, Perth International Arts Festival, Queensland Performing Arts Centre and Australian National University of Music, Llewellyn Hall
STEPHEN HOUGH IN RECITAL
Sydney Symphony Orchestra

 

BEST SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT
THE DAMNATION OF FAUST
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
MAHLER 3
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
REFLECTIONS ON GALLIPOLI
Australian Chamber Orchestra
TAFELMUSIK’S HOUSE OF DREAMS
Musica Viva

 

BEST INDIVIDUAL CLASSICAL MUSIC PERFORMANCE
ASHER FISCH
Beethoven Festival (West Australian Symphony Orchestra)
CHRISTIAN TETZLAFF
Christian Tetlaff (Melbourne Recital Centre)
EMANUEL AX
The Beethoven Piano Concertos (Sydney Symphony Orchestra)
WILLIAM CHRISTIE
William Christie (Melbourne Recital Centre, Sydney Opera House, and Perth International Arts Festival)

 

BEST REGIONAL TOURING PRODUCTION
FESTIVAL OF CIRCA
Circa
FOOD
Force Majeure and Belvoir
KELLY
Queensland Theatre Company
SONS & MOTHERS
Performing Lines and No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability

 

kelly_stevenrooke

 

BEST PRESENTATION FOR CHILDREN
CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS
Circa and Queensland Performing Arts Centre
HANS CHRISTIAN, YOU MUST BE AN ANGEL
Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne
PETE THE SHEEP
Monkey Baa Theatre Company
THE RABBITS
Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company, in association with West Australian Opera, cocommissioned
by Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival

 

2015 HELPMANN AWARDS BESTOWED AWARD

 

BEST SPECIAL EVENT
PERTH INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL IN ASSOCIATION WITH ROYAL DE LUXE
The Incredible and Phenomenal Journey of the Giants to the Streets of Perth

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS

 

SUE NATTRASS AWARD™
ERIC ROBINSON

JC WILLIAMSON AWARD®
PAUL KELLY

BRIAN STACEY AWARD 2015
JESSICA GETHIN

 

18
Apr
15

Faramondo

 

Faramondo

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.