Sunday, 2 August 2009

Sorcerer (Opera della Luna)

"It is obvious that this is no ordinary sorcerer." -- Wile E Coyote. The elimination of the chorus necessitates some changes, but there were quite a lot of changes besides. Some were good, some perhaps less so... most drew plentiful laughter and applause from the audience.

The overture included business on stage involving Dr Daly and handbells, with the good vicar working hard to get people organized so things could be played in some semblance of order. His eventual success shows him as a better organizer than most vicars I've met! The bells featured at various points in the music, with the musicians (one piano and a reduced orchestra) pausing and letting a bell take the moment.

There were a number of points where something in the show was gone over a second time, to good effect. Dr Daly's blessing was echoed back by Marmaduke and Alexis, complete with full business, and taken to the length of hilighting the piece's inherent ridiculousness. Similarly the signing of the wedding contract ("They deliver it, they deliver it") was done over, because the camera wasn't turned on. Part way into the second rendition, Daly gestured to the musicians to hurry it up a bit, which they did.

I was slightly disappointed at the loss of the whole filter/philtre joke, although with all the additions, something had to be removed. Oddly, the word "philtre" still occurred during the song, and once during the discussion of its effect on married persons.

What was worse, though, was the interpolation of The Lost Chord into the finale. Was it not this particular piece that was specifically requested by its composer not to be burlesqued? Hrm. I found it hard to applaud that, even though the rest of the show was largely quite funny and well done.

The second act opened with an unsurprisingly thin chorus. The scene hardly works with only two people on stage, so most of it was cut. ("If you marry me" came back as a reprise, though, once the entire company was there to sing it.) Another major change: Instead of Alexis insisting on Aline drinking the philtre, it was Aline who required it of Alexis. I don't know that Gilbert would have approved of Alexis and Dr Daly falling in love, even under the influence of sorcery.

That said, however, the show was well rehearsed and well received. Philip Cox as Dr Daly held things together with a well-brewed pot of tea (there was even some left at the end of the show - cold tea, anyone?); Gareth Jones made a surprisingly spry Notary; Ian Belsey as Sir Marmaduke paired off well with Sylvia Clark's Sangazure, although the latter seemed to have some trouble with the lower notes. I was fully expecting a top-notch performance from Simon Butteriss (especially having seen him earlier in the day - see previous post), and was not disappointed. A completely classical Aline (Emma Morwood) contrasted a 60s hippy Alexis (Oliver White) to great comedic effect. Mrs Partlett and Constance (Susan Moore and Claire Watkins) handled the opening cleanly, but then were almost completely relegated to the chorus (although, there being no other chorus, this was vital to the plot). All held their own strongly, and were well balanced against the orchestra (although in some of the places where words were changed, I could have wished for a little more volume from the singers).

The set was simple, but effective. One large tent, with several entrances (including one past the piano, used only occasionally), and a large central pole that seemed to keep on getting in someone's way or being leaned on (it almost deserved to be credited as another member of the cast!). Skilful lighting spared the need for a chorus in the Incantation, as well as setting the mood perfectly in each scene. Lighting by its nature is designed to draw attention away from itself, and one usually only notices it when it's bad or inadequate. This was not one of those cases - the lighting dramatically highlighted every piece of funny business and kept our attention rivetted on the stage.

This is a new production which is to be taken touring. In a sense, that makes tonight's show the beta test... and a reasonably successful one. The show sat fairly happily with me, apart from the mangling of The Lost Chord; although as Teresa says in The Mountebanks, "I'm only one, and possibly I'm wrong"... most of the audience seemed to quite enjoy that interpolation, finding it most amusing to hear "It may be that only in heaven I shall drink such tea again". The audience definitely enjoyed the show (myself included), and ultimately, that's what really matters.

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