Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Rare Opera Nights at the Coliseum

Act 2 Thebans

No drama like a Greek drama it seems and all roads lead to Thebes for Irish librettists. My review of The Invader, a new Irish opera by Mark Roper and Eric Sweeney appeared in the Irish Examiner recently. While Roper opts for Euripides, Frank McGuiness mines the Theban trilogy of Sophocles for his libretto of Thebans  which just finished a run of seven nights at the Coliseum.   The chiaroscuro lighting effects by Jean Kalman gave the opening  tableaux of each of the three acts a real wow factor. I enjoyed Fiona Maddock's review and I think she gave the best insight into the orchestration. Read it here I was glad to have a view of the orchestra pit to attempt to determine what instruments were producing the striking  effects in Julian Anderson's innovative score. Baritones used to playing the baddie must rejoice  that Anderson gives the dastardly Creon's voice to 'an over florid and untrustworthy tenor'.

 I was in London for  the opening night on Thursday (June 5th) of a rarely performed Berlioz piece, Benvenuto Cellini. There was all the buzz  of a premiere and the fun of  celeb spotting before we got down to business.  Even on first night, the dress code is somewhat more relaxed than at the Royal Opera House. Used to the more leisurely speed of the appearance of Irish theatre and opera reviews, I was amazed to see  first press reviews were on line within an hour and a half of curtain down and in print the following morning editions, an  impressive feat of logistics and speedy writing. Here is the Daily Telegraph review by Rupert Christiansen

What with everyone getting their britches in a twist over Tara Erraught's curves, I note that another great Irish voice was on duty in the trouser role tonight. Paula Murrihy's  Ascanio, made a very pleasing blend of voice with Corinne Winter's as Teresa. Willard White stole the show in a Poobah-esque  Pope emerging from a  theatrical contraption, a sort of  deus-ex machina and like the Downton, dowager duchess,  had all the best lines.
Looming Statues Manon Lescaut, Semperoper
Benvenuto Cellini 
Berlioz in his autobiography  summed up the work as 'containing a certain variety of ideas, an energy and exuberance and brilliance of colour such as I may never find again'. And that is not a bad summary of the work.

 Two other productions came to I watched this production.  I was reminded of the circus performers role in the Cork Operatic Society's production of Pagliacci and the enormous statue  and the mix of time frames in the costuming  recalled  a  Semperoper production of Manon Lescsaut where the set was dominated by a giant Statue  of Liberty. There was a snooze factor in the 90 minute long first half which sagged in the middle before taking off in the pantomime scene.The second half zipped along nicely and the audience responded with warmth and enthusiasm to this ebullient production.

The production will be screened in cinemas across Ireland and UK  on June 17th. I look forward to a closer look at the wonderfully OTT theatrical details.

Director Terry Gilliam's hilarious diary which appeared in The Guardian is here
Benvenuto Cellini – Michael Spyres

Giacomo Balducci – Pavlo Hunka
Teresa – Corinne Winters
Fieramosca – Nicholas Pallesen
Pope Clement VII – Sir Willard White
Ascanio – Paula Murrihy
Francesco – Nicky Spence
Bernardino – David Soar
Pompeo – Morgan Pearse
Innkeeper – Anton Rich

Terry Gilliam (director, set designs)

Leah Hausmann (co-director, movement)
Aaron Marsden (set designs)
Katrina Lindsay (costumes)
Finn Ross (video)

Chorus of the English National Opera (chorus master: Nicholas Jenkins)

Orchestra of the English National Opera
Edward Gardner (conductor)
onductor   Edward Gardner
Director   Pierre Audi
Set Designer   Tom Pye
Costume Designer   Christof Hetzer
Lighting Designer   Jean Kalman
Video Designer   Lysander Ashton
Oedipus   Roland Wood
Creon   Peter Hoare
Antigone   Julia Sporsén
Tiresias   Matthew Best
Jocasta   Susan Bickley
Messenger   Christopher Ainslie
Haemon   Anthony Gregory
Polynices   Jonathan McGovern

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