RIAM’s La finta giardiniera, Beckett Theatre, 16/1/18 – Review

RIAM’s La finta giardiniera, Beckett Theatre, 16/1/18 – Review

I confess: I went to La finta Giardiniera at the Beckett Theatre for Mozart’s music. It was a students’ show, yes, but you can’t have everything. Little I knew I was in for a treat.

The production presented promising students from RIAM, and was made in collaboration with IADT students for hair and make up, while the creative team was a professional one.

La finta giardiniera makes for an instantly captivating listening, like a succession of pop songs from the eighteenth century. The score contains in nuce Mozart’s genius, while the libretto is full to the brim with facetious rhymes.

I disagree with William Mann’s dismissive opinion of the libretto (“feeble, stereotyped and […] incompetent”) as a distinction needs to be made between the plot and the verses. On the thin canvas of the ludicrous plot, the libretto manages to paint all the painful shades of unreciprocated love: jealousy, desire, madness, although in a formally comic guise. What’s more, the Italian verses of the libretto are moulded with exceeding metrical skill.

Veteran director Ben Barnes did a dazzling job in adapting this work. Both the directorial choices and the movement director’s (Libby Seward) ones were spotless, bringing out and magnifying the surreal nature of divertissement of this opera. On the other hand, the English of the surtitles could have been more literally faithful to the original.

Conductor Andrew Synnott drew out of the students’ orchestra a very enjoyable rendition of the score, particularly energetic in the aria of playfully metatheatrical flavour “Dentro il mio petto io sento”, sung with confidence by Vladimir Sima.

Clodagh Kinsella was a perfect Sandrina, with great stage presence, good acting and an interesting colour to her voice. James McCreanor displayed a sweet Mozart tenor voice. Eimear McCarthy Luddy was a very good Ramira, in an untangling of the trousers role’s ambiguity where the original “Ramiro” becomes the gay suitor of Arminda. Dylan Rooney (Nardo) boasted a deep baritone voice.  

Both Corina Ignat (Arminda) and Ecaterina Tulgara (Serpetta) demonstrated striking acting  and astounding vocal control, with the second one leaving a particularly strong impression in my mind.

*Picture: Vladimir Sima, James McCreanor, Corina Ignat, Ecaterina Tulgara and Dylan Rooney in RIAM’s “La finta giardiniera”. Photo by Colm Hogan.

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Dubliners, Samuel Becket Theatre, 9/11/17 – Review

Dubliners, Samuel Becket Theatre, 9/11/17 – Review

Andrew Synnott’s and Arthur Riordan’s Dubliners is a masterclass in stage adaptation, with a sense of the theatre not always seen in opera productions. That’s, on one hand, the experienced touch of theatre director Annabelle Comyn, helped by excellent costumes, set and lighting design.

The libretto by Arthur Riordan, in turn, exudes intelligence, wit and refinement. The Irish subject gets here stressed by some vernacular inflections (like “Jaysus” or “me” instead of “my”). Riordan’s philological – often literal – approach to Joyce’s text finds a creative twist in his ingenious metaphors and puns (“Her people were butchers by trade./She knows where a cut must be made” or Polly that was “a typist for a spell”).

But all the liberties he takes with the source material are incredibly measured and never stray from the essence of the story. Last but not least, Riordan – admirably for a playwright – tries very hard to use poetry rather than prose, if not by creating perfectly accented hendecasyllables, at least by using regular rhyming and roughly same-length verses.

Andrew Synnotts’s score, written for piano and four strings, aptly conveys the feelings of the two stories: frustration and anger for “Counterparts”, social anxieties with touches of romance for “The Boarding House”. The coupling of piano and cello in some passages is distinctively modern.

All of the young singers in the cast played their part well. Cormac Lawlor gave his acting best as Farrington. Emma Nash brought to three-dimensional life all the roles she covered, Polly in particular. The use of mezzo-soprano Anna Jeffers in a trousers role (in “Counterparts”) for a contemporary opera was slightly confusing, but she was brilliant in the part of the scheming mother in “The boarding House”. David Howes enriched the role of Jack with his warm timbre and his natural acting skills.    

I have only one remark. I don’t want to sound old fashioned, but is it anachronistic to expect a clear succession of recitatives and arias in contemporary operas? I’ll leave out the question of the self-sufficient, striking beauty of a single aria. Nonetheless, I’ll keep looking for both, trustingly, in future works.

“Dubliners” is a co-production of Opera Theatre Company and Wexford Festival Opera.