Amid the hand wringing over the lack of opera in Ireland, the UK centres of excellence continue to attract fans of the genre. I have heard it said that it is easier to get to the UK capital than the Irish one for many in the West of Ireland, given the good air links from all Irish airports. Numerous ferry crossings make an approach by sea hassle free and more flexible for last minute impulsive trips. Sailrail from Rosslare to central London is currently great value at €52. Roll up minutes before departure and away you go. With the expansion of live screenings, you don't have to leave home at all to experience all the theatrical details in close up at your local cinema for a fraction of the cost.
|Act 2 Thebans|
I was fortunate to catch two of the Spring season presentations at the Coliseum, HQ of the English National Opera recently. Both seats cost around £30 stg, for seats in the middle tiers with good views. (mid price range of what was available on the evening)
Shaken by the low winds at #enothebans struck by the lightingThebans
— Fidleir (@fidleir) May 11, 2014
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 http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/may/11/thebans-eno-review-brett-dean-premiere-britten-sinfonia. 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 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/opera/10877990/Benvenuto-Cellini-English-National-Opera-review-lively-and-idiomatic.html.
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|
Two other productions came to mind.as 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
Gaudy OTT and great fun. Terrific opening night of Benvenuto Cellini @E_N_O #enocelliniBenvenuto Cellini – Michael Spyres
— Fidleir (@fidleir) June 5, 2014
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