Venue: The Thomas Edmonds Opera Studio, Adelaide Showground, Wayville
Duration: 2hrs 30min incl interval
Tickets: adult $30/conc $25
Bookings: 8233 6261 or [email protected]
Co-Opera has ventured into the world of Victorian English comic operetta with their minimalist production of this Gilbert and Sullivan favourite. Once again, they presented a terrific evening of entertainment with enthusiastic, energetic, animated and beautifully sung performances, with plenty of focus on the comedy as W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan once again poke fun at class distinction and hypocrisy.
The group, as usual, take on multiple functions, with Andrew Turner directing, designing and constructing the set as well as performing the role of Giuseppe Palmieri who, like his brother Marco, sung by Robert Macfarlane, is a Venetian gondolier. The brothers are handsome, charming and, naturally, very popular with the ladies, but eventually Giuseppe marries Tessa, sung by Kate Bright, and Marco marries Gianetta, performed by Joanna McWaters.
Turner and Macfarlane make a fine pair of boisterous young gondoliers, filling their characters with joie de vivre and their voices combining well in both balance and timbre in their duets. This is the operetta with one of the best known and most loved airs, Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes, and Macfarlane makes the most of every note. McWaters and Bright, too, present us convincingly with a couple of lively girls without a care in the world, caught up in their love for their new husbands. These two also combine superbly in duets and the four together create a marvellously integrated sound. A total professional, Bright allowed no sign to show of a severe chest cough that has been bothering her, her voice sounding just as wonderfully rich and full as usual.
The course of true love does not run smoothly and the Duke of Plaza-Toro, sung by Nicholas Cannon, and his wife, the Duchess, sung by Deborah Johnson, reveal to their daughter Casilda, played by Alexandra Gard, that she was married as a baby to the infant heir to the throne of Barataria and, as the old king is now dead, she is, thus, the new queen. The infant boy, however, had been entrusted to the care of Palmieri senior, an alcoholic who can no longer recall which of the two young men was his son and which the future king. They must consult the nurse, Inez, sung by Lisa Cannizzaro, who carried the infant to Palmieri and who knows which is which. Casilda is upset, though, as she loves the Duke's attendant, Luiz, played by Thomas Brennan.
Cannon and Johnson add a lot of fun to the mix, their larger than life characters giving them ample opportunity to show that they can do far more than just sing superbly. Just balancing their outsize wigs deserves an award. It is a common feature in Operetta that two such wildly exaggerated characters have a handsome son or beautiful daughter and, in this case it is Casilda. Gard fulfils that role, presenting us with the antithesis of the Duke and Duchess, a down to earth, sensible girl with a mind of her own, a sense of duty and, naturally, the sweetest of singing voices. Luiz, of course, although only a lowly drummer, is the tall dark handsome man with whom she is secretly in love and Brennan, smartly presented and upright, with a fine clear voice, is just right for the part.
Don Alhambra Del Bolero, the Grand Inquisitor, played by Lachlan Scott, hastily separates the two gondoliers from their new wives, explaining that one of them is already married and now an unintentional bigamist, and installs them as joint rulers, until it can be determined which is which. After three months of their joint reign Inez finally appears and tells everybody who is the real king, the surprise twist in the plot being much to everybody's delight, arriving at a happy ending for all.
Scott gives a sinister darkness and adds a dry humour to the Grand Inquisitor, with hints of the Emperor from Star Wars just below the surface, his strong voice accentuating his character's authority. Then, in contrast, the gentle and wise Inez is embodied by Cannizzaro. Although she a fraction of the age of the character, Cannizzaro gives a mature reading to this small but most important role. When not playing their characters, the cast became villagers or courtiers, neatly filling in for the large chorus normally found in a G&S production.
The musical accompaniment was provided, with noticeably sympathetic playing, by pianist, Andrew Georg, who was also in appropriate costume. A simple, but effective set and stunning costumes completed the production. This was yet another winning production from a company that always takes great pride in bringing affordable opera to everybody, everywhere. Let us hope that they soon find a source funding, to replace that recently cut by an Arts ignorant and short-sighted Government, so that they can continue their excellent work.
As always, this was a cabaret style performance where patrons are encouraged to bring food and drink, with an hour before the performance and a decent length of interval for partaking and socialising, adding to the enjoyment of the evening. Watch out for their production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin (Yevgény Onégin), based on the novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin, which will be coming to Adelaide in the last week of November. You can book now by downloading the booking form here: http://www.co-opera.com.au/pdf/2011-BOOKING-FORM.pdf.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.