Sunday, April 03, 2016

Opera Otago's House Operas

I've been rehearsing with four young singers and two directors over the last two and a half weeks or so (with a few more days to go). Opera Otago is presenting two 'house operas' at Olveston on the 8th, 9th and 10th of April. It's going to be interesting to see if everything we've been rehearsing will actually work in the venue, which is not strictly speaking geared for opera, even small scale ones like these two.

They're an interesting pair, put together, I'm sure with both their similarities and contrasts in mind. The first in the programme is John Drummond's Dearest Maurice, a work that lasts around forty minutes. John is a well-known figure in Dunedin music circles, and has a good deal to do with Opera Otago over a number of years. (His son Jonathan conducted the premiere of my own children's musical, Grimhilda!, back in 2012). John has written several operas, but this is the only one I've had the opportunity to work closely on.

There are two characters, a young doctor, and a mysterious woman touring in the United States as a lady's companion. The third character, Maurice, never appears, but in spite of that brings the couple together. Unintentionally.

The other piece is better known, perhaps, having been presented by the Dunedin Opera Company at least once before. It's Menotti's The Telephone, in which that instrument plays an irritating and interrupting role in keeping the pair of lovers apart.

Both are romantic pieces, the former more serious in tone, the second lighter, with definite comedy running through it. In Drummond's piece, the tenor (Ben Madden) has the bigger role, not only being onstage for most of the time, but also very busy. The soprano (Ingrid Fomison-Nurse) has her own work, and some lovely duets. In the Menotti we have the reverse: the soprano (Julia Moss-Pearson) gets the majority of the singing, while the tenor (Harry Grigg) struggles - at times - to get a word in.

Musically Dearest Maurice swings between  enthusiastic, rowdy music and lush harmonies. Menotti's music is bright, sparkling, and often funny (something music isn't always good at). The soprano has several coloratura moments as well, while the piano frequently provides the 'voice' of one or other of the various people she encounters on the phone. Mixed with these are the warm melodies and harmonies Menotti is known for.

John Drummond is producing his own opera, and Claire Barton is producing The Telephone. The two operas are presented in the same programme, and each of the three shows starts at 6 pm. The whole presentation will take around an hour and a quarter.

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