Theatre Review: The Gipsy Baron

The Gipsy Baron is a story of love and class amongst the plight of the Romani people in early Hungary.

By


SALOS_GypsyBaronPresented by SALOS
Reviewed 22 August 2013

The South Australian Light Opera Society (SALOS) has been entertaining Adelaide with creative and talented productions since 1983. Fear not, no rotund Italian women shattering glass here. SALOS is a fantastic showcase of how impressive operatic talent can be.

For their second production of 2013, director Pam Tucker has brought us The Gipsy Baron, a story of love and class amongst the plight of the Romani people in early Hungary.

Mayor Zsupan (Noel Carthew) is at loggerheads with the local band of gipsies, who insist Zsupan remove his pigs (yes, pigs) from their land (including the castle, for which the gipsies are the rightful caretakers and guardians). With the help of his major-domo Otto (Matthew Holding) who is hopelessly in love with the his daughter Arletta (Christine Southby), and the assistance of his housekeeper Mirabella (Joy Bishop), Mayor Zsupan and his elitist troop will stop at nothing to rid his lands of the nomadic travellers.

Following a meeting with the Queen of the Gipsies, Czipra (Sandra Fameli) and her daughter (Katrin Treloar), Zsupan is warned of the upcoming encounter with the son of an exiled Baron (James Murphy) who is the rightful owner of the lands. It is a creatively intricate plot by a talented storyteller.

SALOS openly claims on its website and publication materials that most of its talent is ‘older’. Don’t let that fool you. The experienced ensemble have honed their vocal prowess for years and are more nimble and athletic than my 24 year-old self. The younger contenders are also adept. Sometimes a ‘good’ voice isn’t about how loudly the singer can belt it out, but more about the emotion and control they have.

Southby is brilliant in her portrayal as a rowdy upstart, and is a gifted singer. Fameli carries the charm and grace of her regal role wonderfully, and has a significant and admirable stage presence. Murphy and Treloar as the young star-crossed lovers are better singers than actors. The literal love at first sight is a bit jarring, and their apparent love for each other looks a little forced. That said, their duets and larger roles with the chorus are harmoniously pleasing and vocally impressive.

My favourite on-stage couple were Mishka (Christopher Evans) and Franzi (Spring Whenan): natural, charming, and witty. Holding’s characterization of Otto is quite unique. His emphatic gesturing and restless hands were initially off-putting, but it surprisingly grows on you. Holding’s character is quite the larrikin and showcases a lot of physical comedy. Well done Holding!

Take a bow, SALOS. A carefully crafted, enjoyable production.

Reviewed by Nathan Giaccio

Venue: Tower Arts Centre, corner Daws and Goodwood Roads, Pasadena
Season: 22-25 August 2013
Duration: 2 hours, 40 minutes

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