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).
Extract of my review published on Bachtrack.com on 22/10/18.
Dinner at Eight, William 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).
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).
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.
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.