Theatre in Wales

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Things That Begin with N and O

101 Nights to Remember

Thirteen Years a Reviewer , Theatre of Wales , May 8, 2020
101 Nights to Remember by Thirteen Years a Reviewer Two productions that brought opera up close.

“Three Hundred Stirring Voices and Instruments” ran the heading for “Noyes Fludde.”

The review from Rhosygilwen made the contrast of liveness with New York Met on a screen. As the review for “Macbeth” put it:

“To hear an unleashed tenor at this distance is to experience an instrument of nature of some force. The acting, too, this close-up is a physical presence, of real muscle, teeth, saliva even.”

From “Noyes Fludde”, Mid Wales Opera & Partner Organisations, Aberystwyth, 2011

“The fifty-strong orchestra comprises a core of professionals augmented by musicians under the aegis of Ceredigion’s Music Services. A small drummer, for instance, eleven years old started four years ago with a local samba group. Now he is a part of Benjamin Britten’s complex atmospheric music, evoking the catastrophe come upon humanity... Director Clare Williams opens the production with an image of imagination. In two rows of colourful deck chairs fourteen sun-worshippers bask in shorts, summery dresses and sunglasses. Each sips on an alcopop and is immersed in a copy of “OK” or “Hello”. Conductor Nicholas Cleobury enters, makes a small bow to his cast, his players and to us, the audience. The audience too is to be part of the performance. After the singing practice- the audience is to sing against, rather than with, the orchestra- the action opens with the entry from the Hall’s rear of a procession of loud demonstrators. They have the placards, the t-shirts and peace symbols of protest. They are to come up against the complacent, hedonistic sun-baskers, amongst them Ann Atkinson’s Mrs Noye.

“Meanwhile Charles Johnston’s Noye in his stripey t-shirt, hears the word and dons a white construction helmet. Five helpers in life jackets set to build the ark and orchestrate the huge numbers of animals who are to be saved. Twelve dancers represent the restless white froth of the waves. At the peak of its action the ark rolls and pitches in the flood, the orchestra plays Britten’s storm-evoking music, and cast and audience sing alike. The onstage singers, in the main below the age of ten, by this point number two hundred and forty. The combined sound is colossal, the effect deeply emotive. Clare Williams brings many a small touch of wit to the production. The price of umbrellas doubles as the rains approach. The physical loading of the animals on the ark is accompanied by onscreen animation. The drawings are by children. Each creature has its distinct movement brought to life by animator Ben Davis. A chimpanzee grins, a cat trots along with a look of self-satisfaction, squirrels hop, a peacock opens his plume of feathers.” But “Noye’s Fludde” is more than just moving. All these voices, that have come together, sing “I may eternal brightness see and share thy joy at last.” Joy is shared indeed. In these grey days “Noye’s Fludde” is the best corrective; it brims over with hope

From “Oniegin: Gaeaf Gobeithion”, Opra Cymru, Rhosygilwen Arts Centre, 2014

“Opra Cymru’s fifth annual tour comes with a difference. Jâms Coleman has been at the piano for previous productions of Verdi and Donizetti. But Tchaikovsky needs more and Coleman, while still at the keyboard, is musical director of a group of six musicians. Artistic director Patrick Young has augmented keyboard and strings with Dewi Garmon Jones on French horn and Jonathan Guy on clarinet. The sound that emerges under Coleman’s leadership fills Rhosygilwen’s hammer-beamed Oak Hall with both scale and texture. Pushkin’s original 1833 verse-novel is fuelled by emotions of grandeur. This Onegin starts on a high. The force in Tchaikovsky’s overture is powerfully delivered by the strings, Kateŕina Marešovā on violin, Lowri Thomas viola and Angharad Maxwell cello. The production has a cast of thirteen and a whole cluster of sopranos offstage produces a sound reminiscent of the great choral tradition in Russian Orthodoxy. The libretto freely draws on Pushkin’s original but Tchaikovsky has threaded this most secular of plots with occasional sacral hints.

“Opra Cymru’s production comes in its regular and inimitable form. A thirty-inch high stage is placed in the centre of the Oak Hall, the audience seated on four sides. Entries and exits are minimal. Offstage cast members take up front row seats and are themselves observers of the action...Singers enclosed in a rectangle on a wall cannot compare with Opra Cymru’s vision of a return to a true demotic opera. The part of Prince Gremin is shared over the tour between Sion Goronwy, Trebor Lloyd Evans and Kees Huysmans. To experience a bass, singing from a real physical voice, at a distance of eight feet is to live a sound that electronic reproduction cannot hope to emulate. Much power in the singing from ensemble and leads; Angharad Lyddon is a feisty Olga and Alex Vearey-Roberts a commanding Lensky. The central figures, the lovers-that-fail-to-be, are played by Matthew Durkan and Stacey Wheeler. Their final meeting ripples with loss over a course not chosen, a life that might have been lived. Tatiana’s letter scene is framed with some strong French horn. One of the longest soprano solos in the opera canon the performance is a compelling triumph.” There is much to be admired in “Oniegin: Gaeaf Gobeithion”. Choreography for the numerous dance scenes is the work of Siri Wigdel.”

Photo credit: Keith Morris

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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