Venue: State Opera Studio, 216 Marion Road, Netley
Season: 7:30pm Thurs 29th, Fri 30th, Sat 1st Oct, 3pm Sat 1st and Sun 2nd Oct 2011.
Duration: 2hrs incl interval
Tickets: adult $35/conc $25/children under 18 $15
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or http://www.bass.net.au
Mozart's opera has been given an major overhaul by Musical Director, Richard Chew, and Director, Cheryl Pickering. Together, they have written a new libretto and Chew has reduced the orchestral score for piano (Chew), bass (Lyndon Gray) and drums (Jarrad Payne), with a reminder of the innovative work of the Jacques Loussier Trio. Although this version is set in a circus, with completely new lyrics, the familiar music and well known characters are all still there in, more or less, their usual relationships to one another. The lyrics are very funny, but also reflect the ideals of Tutti, including such aspects as inclusion, individuality, respect, self-belief and perseverance.
Entering the auditorium we find that a central performance area, set up to give the impression of a big top, is surrounded on all four sides by tiered seating, three sides for the audience and the other, behind the musicians, reserved for the forty strong Tutti Choir. Bec Francis has captured the feel of the circus, but also of something beyond that, an intangible link to Mozart's world, the Masonic ideals to which his original libretto refers, and the struggle of good against evil of Greco-Roman theatre. Nic Mollison's lighting is essential to creating the range of moods, from love to fury, and adding to all of the excitement of the circus.
Members of the circus appear, getting ready for a performance. The Tutti artists dress in loose fitting silky outfits that nicely catch the changing colours of the lighting. A 'volunteer' from the audience is dragged into the performance area and he suddenly finds himself in the role of Tamino. The reluctant 'volunteer' is tenor, Robert Macfarlane whose smoothly expressive voice makes him an ideal romantic lead.
Tamino collapses onto the floor and the Three-headed Lady (originally a trio) appears and discovers him. Deborah Caddy clearly enjoys singing the three roles with herself, using the two puppet heads, her infectious smile making light of her character's intentions.
Papagano, the bird-catching clown, enters and sings about how much he wants a wife. Baritone, Andrew Turner, finds plenty of humour in his character and does a fine job of keeping up with the physical requirements of a clown.
Tamino sees a circus poster with a picture of the hoop girl, Pamina, and he instantly falls for her. Soprano, Naomi Hede, sings the role of the object of his affections.
The course of love does not run smoothly and there are those who stand in the way of Tamino's pursuit of Pamina. There is Monostatos, the knife thrower, sung by Alistair Brasted with plenty of bravado, but he is only a small problem for Tamino, compared to the Queen of the Night, the deposed head of the circus, sung by Joanna McWaters. She offers a characterisation of a strong and determined woman, bitter at her loss of power. The Three-headed Lady is also an attendant of the Queen of the Night.
Papagano meets the girl of his dreams in the canary coloured acrobat, Papagena, sung by Kate Wyatt. She gives a highly energetic and physically risky performance, performing various acrobatic manoeuvres with Andrew Turner and singing beautifully at the same time. An impressive feat.
Jayne Hewetson sings the role of Zarastra, the bearded lady and head of the circus, the facial hair reminding us that the role is usually sung by a bass. Hewetson sings the role in a powerful gospel style, rather than operatically, and carries herself with an appropriate majesty.
Simon Follett is the motorbike-riding bodyguard to The Queen of the Night and he brings her in, riding side-saddle pillion, for her second act aria, which she sings standing up on the seat of the parked motorcycle.
Along the way there is some fine work from the vocal quartet of Annika Hooper, Aimee Crathern, Caroline Hardy and Michelle Hall, especially when they make use of spatial separation, by splitting into pairs and singing with each other across the performance space. They, and the other Tutti performers, keep busy throughout the performance, balancing plates, working with hoops and generally entertaining the audience between scenes. Livewirez, from Cirkidz, are also hard-working, with juggling, hoops, stilt-walking, riding unicycles, tumbling, engaging in acrobatics and more.
Tamino must find himself an act and join the circus to win the love of Pamina and, after much study and practice, Robert Macfarlane takes a flute in one hand and a unicycle in the other and rides across the tightrope, high above the ring. That, you must see to believe.
In the end, all is happy as Tamino wins Pamina, Papageno wins Papagena and Zarastra forgives the Queen of the Night. This all adds up to a wonderful performance, the sort of thing we have come to expect from Tutti, on this occasion made even better by the addition of the young performers from Cirkidz and of course the marvellous music of Mozart, interpreted by the State Opera singers and the choir, all under the superb guidance of Cheryl Pickering and Richard Chew.
A very important thing to be emphasised about this production is that it is perfect for everybody, no matter whether very young or the very opposite. This is genuine family entertainment, combining opera, circus spectacle, choreographed movement and more. There is something here for everybody, so do yourself a favour and get a ticket before they all go.
The performances on Fri 30th Sept at 7:30pm and Sat 1st Oct at 3PM will be Auslan signed.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.