“Il Bravo” review, Wexford Festival Opera, 21/10/18.

Extract of my review published on Bachtrack.com on 23/10/18.

If you happened to listen to Mercadante’s Il bravo blindly, you could almost swear you were listening to some unknown Verdi opera; except that Verdi’s first opera, Oberto, was only going to appear eight months later, while this was already Mercadante’s 44th opera! This is the sixth of the canon to be rediscovered at Wexford Festival Opera over the past twenty years, and one can easily understand why this is.

Director Renault Doucet goes for a split kind of staging… (continue reading on bachtrack.com).

 

“Dinner at Eight” review, Wexford Festival Opera, 20/10/18.

Extract of my review published on Bachtrack.com on 22/10/18.

Dinner at EightWilliam Bolcom and librettist Mark Campbell’s 2017 opera, had its European première at Wexford Festival Opera on Saturday under conductor David Agler. The opera is based on the 1932 play by George S Kaufman and Edna Ferber, in turn adapted into a movie by George Cukor (1933). Set in American Depression New York, Millicent Jordan (Mary Dunleavy) is organising a society dinner for a couple from the English aristocracy… (continue reading on Bachtrack.com).

“Bluebeard’s Castle” review, Gaiety Theatre, 12/10/18.

Extract of review published on Bachtrack.com on 15/10/18.

Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle takes its inspiration from Charles Perrault’s fairytale; but while the original resembles more closely an actual horror story, with various potential moral interpretations (the atavic punishment of female curiosity and transgression, the discovery of truth and the loss of innocence, etc.), the opera navigates a more subtle and symbolic ground. It is this fundamental difference that director Enda Walsh seems to bypass in this production for Irish National Opera… (continue reading on Bachtrack.com).

“A portrait of the artist as a young man”, Pavilion Theatre – Review

“A portrait of the artist as a young man”, Pavilion Theatre – Review

James Joyce’s work wouldn’t look like the most likely candidate for a theatrical reduction; and yet, Irish theatre makers have engaged a lot with the writer recently.

Rough Magic opened their new production of “A portrait of the artist as a young man”, directed by Ronan Phelan and adapted by Arthur Riordan, at the Pavilion Theatre on September 28 to a full auditorium. Instead of an early 1900’ setting, we are thrown in the middle of a scant, abstract contemporary staging, with the cast ensemble wearing jeans (enigmatically too short, by costume and set designer Katie Davenport). A giant, faceless shape of the Virgin Mary overlooks the drama of the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, searching for his identity amidst religious oppression, sexual desires and a rising artistic sensibility.

Stephen is played in turn by multiple actors and a metatheatrical device (the swapping of his Ireland jersey) has the different on-stage narrators constantly changed into him, a sort of visual match for the free indirect speech often used in the novel. An overall playfulness dominates the production, which is animated by an apparent desire of making this piece of high literature popular and accessible: the pop songs, the sing-along church choruses, the Irish mammy constantly pregnant and so on.

Peter Corboy_PORTRAIT_Photos by Ste Murray.jpg
Peter Corboy as Stephen Dedalus.

Gender fluidity has almost become commonplace in Irish theatre, betraying some sort of anxiety about political correctness. We see Stephen played by both male and female actors. Society, Irish and not, is in desperate need of gender equality; but is theatre – or art – the place where to fight this battle? Yes, it is a universal humanity we are seeking to discover through art, something that transcends gender; but there is also an essential, archetypal polarity in the representation of a man as distinct from a woman.

While all the cast were very good, standout performances were those of Amy Conroy (especially as Dante at the Christmas dinner) and Peter Corboy as Stephen Dedalus.

Overall, Riordan’s and Phelan’s adaptation makes for an effective distillate of the original and offers some powerful moments that somehow manage to add to it, while making Joyce step down from his pedestal.

 

“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” runs at The Pavilion Theatre until October 7, then tours around Ireland until November 3. Full details on https://www.roughmagic.ie/archive/a-portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-man/.

“The Tales of Hoffmann” review, O’Reilly Theatre, 14/9/2018.

Extract of review published on Bachtrack.com on 16/9/18.

By its very nature of opéra fantastique, Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann seemingly lends itself to diverse and imaginative staging possibilities. And yet, the challenge for a director is that of keeping the essence of the – very peculiar – story intact. Director Tom Creed is used to this challenge and I remember fondly his very successful transposition last year of Handel’s Acis and Galatea. Manipulating Offenbach, though, proves slightly more problematic… (continue reading on Bachtrack.com).

L’italiana in Algeri at Blackwater Valley Opera Festival – Review

Extract from review published June 4th on Bachtrack.com.

With all the laudable efforts to detach from opera the label of an elitist art form, there is an undeniable pleasure in attending an opera performance in a luxurious setting. The Blackwater Valley Opera Festival leverages exactly the seductive power of this combination. Given such plush context, the risk is that of experiencing an anti-climax. Did it happen with L’italiana in Algeri? Partially. While the average quality of the production was good, there were a few less successful elements that visibly detracted from its full enjoyment… Continue reading on Bachtrack.com.

 

Opera Gala at the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire.

Friday June 22, 7.30 pm, tickets 25€/27.5€

This will be the eleventh year of the Opera Gala at the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire, a well established annual event and a little gem in the opera scene in the Dublin area. The Gala is organised by DLR Glasthule Opera, brainchild of Anne-Marie O’Sullivan.

Promising young singers are showcased alongside more established ones, in a program full of popular arias. The singers are chosen by O’Sullivan herself, who knows a thing or two about singing being the former Head of Opera and vocal studies at DIT. You can actually have fun in the evening taking a guess at who may become the next opera star. A few years ago at one of the Galas, for example, I noticed a very self-confident young soprano, Jennifer Davis. Next week Davis will be replacing star soprano Kristine Opolais in the ROH production of Wagner’s Lohengrin in the role of Elsa.

David Brophy (casual)
Conductor David Brophy.

The 20-piece Glasthule Orchestra will be conducted by David Brophy. I have seen in the past a special alchemy in this orchestra-conductor combination, resulting in a particularly effortless and smooth sound. The very popular bass John Molloy will host the event and will also perform some arias during the evening. 

This year the program will include arias from The magic flute, The marriage of Figaro, Il ratto del serraglio, Don Giovanni, La Cenerentola, the Barber of Seville, L’Elisir d’Amore, Linda di Chamonix, Don Pasquale and arias from Handel. The singers will be sopranos Rachel Croash and Amy Hewitt, mezzo Sinead O’Kelly, tenor James McCreanor and bass Rory Dunne.

To book, visit the Pavilion Theatre website.