"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Sunday, September 24, 2017
Barefoot Opera at St Leonard's,
Palladian St Leonard's. If any artist were roaming its shadows, it
should surely be Mario Cavaradossi. But here it's Marcello and his
student chums, bringing bohemian Paris to vibrant life in Barefoot
Opera's lovely chamber version of Puccini's earlier hit.
not an obvious venue for opera. Hard pews, poor sight-lines, and an
ecclesiastical acoustic, in which the band and the women fared best,
leaving the men to struggle to make their words clear in the muddying
the space is well used dramatically in
Jenny Miller's intimate new production:
nave becomes the street, the Café Momus blends into the audience, a
simple scaffold gives height, with a banner backdrop which also
screens the surtitles. Umbrellas provide
a sense of place, and lighting; they make a wonderfully atmospheric
start to Act III.
very small chorus – and nogamins;
liked the way that actors portrayed the wind, the garret parrot and
even the moon. Lesley Anne Sammons directed a tiny band from the
piano – the use of the accordion [Milos Milosovic] was inspired,
and seemed so
right for the Latin Quarter. Another stroke of genius was to have the
Musician, Shaunard [Andrew Sparling], flit between stage and pit,
contributing some superb clarinet solos.
was beautifully sung by Lucy Ashton – a bright, rich soprano voice.
Her “pink bonnet” aria in Act III, and the duet which followed,
were musical highlights of the evening. Andrew McGowan, in red
baseball cap and black lipstick, was a very modern Rodolfo. Perhaps
because of the acoustic, his tenor sometimes seemed underpowered, but
he had some fine moments, notably the “Addio” quartet at the end
of Act III. The other couple, whose tiff provides dramatic
counterpoint to Mimi's reconciliation
were the strongly sung – and colourfully characterized - Marcello
of Oscar Castellino, and Kayleigh McEvoy's impressive Musetta, the
scarlet party-girl who leaves
Alcindoro [Tim Patrick] for
big number, the seductive Waltz song, was delivered in a very
animated style, modelling hats, stripping on a table, kicking
never missing a note or an inflection.
philosopher student, Colline, [Matthew Thistleton] cut
much more traditional figure than
poet, the painter or the musician. A classic profile, and a burnished
baritone for his “Vecchia zimarra”,
where he bids farewell to his favourite overcoat.
intimate production, uniquely
bringing a fresh, youthful perspective to the classic opera, ends its
tour in Cheltenham on October 28 – their next show, in Hastings,
will be very different: Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea.