Reviewed by Carolyn Watts
Bellini’s La Sonambula—by Operantics.
Next performance—26 November, Q Theatre in Penrith.
Operantics lit up the Independent Theatre in North Sydney this weekend with an original take on Bellini’s ‘La Sonambula’. If you haven’t yet developed a love of opera, this company will convert you to bel canto with a difference.
Operantics is an artist run company of young singers bringing opera, and their love of it, to the modern audience. Every performer brings great voice and dramatic personae to their role. Even the chorus, while delivering songs in harmonious unity, represents a group of villagers, each with her/his own character’s personality and foibles which we are soon able to identify and anticipate.
The stereotypes drawn in the original story could be challenging to a modern audience but the tale is made palatable by this young company. The boy-meets-girl, jilts her, tries someone else yarn is revamped in the hands of Director, Ian Warwick and Producer, Katie Miller-Crispe, the cast delivers the narrative with a twist; along with energy and vocal accomplishment that is as fresh as it is delightful.
Bellini’s story includes a hero (Elvino) whose jealousy is so over the top as to include “the breeze that caresses (her) face” in his list of rivals.
Operantics though, ham it up just enough so the audience sees the 150-year-old narrative as a site for an archaeological dig at outmoded notions of girls as prey of male serial philanderers.
The company does not mess with the score, though, Bellini’s music is respected and the lyrics are superimposed in English on the backdrop; so no punishment for audiences who don’t speak Italian!
Lisa (Katie Miller-Crispe) is hilarious in her venomous; backbiting attacks on the ‘pure’ and ‘innocent’ (read naïve and needy) Amina (Joelene Griffith). Both women have gorgeous soprano and coloratura soprano voices.
Elvino (Michael Butchard) delivers his self-obsessed jealousy with a bodily swagger and vocal lilt occasionally reminiscent of early Dean Martin, while Count Rodolfo (Christopher Nazarian), an aristocratic lecher turned protector whose ‘breeding’ trumps the wealth of Elvino, has a natural baritone that complements his swarthy looks.
This is an exciting cast whose vocal and dramatic range is broad and satisfying.
This weekend’s performance was part of an initial three night run, but the show will return on November 26 at ‘Q’ Theatre in Penrith. If you have to travel to get there, do it! The rewards are worth the journey.
Photo by: John Kilkeary, for Operantics