Thursday, November 27, 2008


RUG Opera at the Palace Westcliff

How many times has the lovely Palace at Westcliff seen Strauss's fun-filled Fledermaus on its steeply raked stage?

This week, with RUG's determinedly decadent production, could have been the first time the Veuve Cliquot dripped onto the woodwind in the pit, the first time a well-oiled Muscle Mary poured the drinks and moved the chairs, the first time the Can Can provided the floor show.

Musically, the standard was very high. Alison McFadyen kept things moving, the orchestral players embraced the Strauss style, and the singers - principals and party guests [no mere chorus here] - were splendid.

Paul Tarrant - a dead ringer for David Cameron, I thought - was the hapless Eisenstein, with Fiona Whittaker in excellent voice as his wife Rosalinda. Alfred, the opera singer, was Kevin Smith, with his snatches from the repertoire, and there was great character work from David Phillips as a very Teutonic prison governor. His side-kick, Frosch, was played by Shane Collins. Normally a non-singing role, it was embellished here by a moment from Rose Marie - when did that last play the Palace, I wonder.

Adele, dream role, was beautifully played by Jenny Haxell, who even attempted to sing in mummerset.
The youthful dance troupe were very impressive, but generally the pace was less than lively, and the scene changes were obviously hard work.

Nonetheless, an exellent evening out, with a real sense of occasion. As always, RUG was raising money for charity: this time Fair Havens Hospice and The Lennox Children's Cancer Fund.

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