Wednesday, 14 February 2018

A Triptych: Irrational Theatre in three one-act comic operas

A Triptych of Comic Operas  - Irrational Theatre
A Triptych, John Whittaker, Peter Reynolds, Offenbach; Irrational Theatre; The King's Head
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on Feb 11 2018 Star rating: 3.0
Three contrasting one-act operas in intimate surrounds

It is always a pleasure to see little known works, but you never know quite what you’re going to get. Irrational Theatre came to the King’s Head yesterday evening (11 February 2018) with A Triptych, an interesting mix of three handers directed by Paula Chitty: John Whittaker’s The Proposal, Peter ReynoldsSounds of Time and Jacques Offenbach’s Le 66 with varying results.

The singers Laurence Panter (tenor), Lucy Elston (soprano) and Andrew Sparling (baritone), sharing the roles, were all uniformly good, although poor Andrew Sparling did seem to have an aversion to props. There was some fine, not to say nimble, support from Julian Trevelyan, John Whittaker (pianists) and Abi Clark (flute).
First out of the blocks was John Whittaker’s The Proposal based on Chekov’s one act farce A Marriage Proposal. Seems a strange choice if you ask me. It’s charms, such as they are, are rooted in it’s fast paced dialogue. Chekov himself seems not to have been entirely convinced by his own work, branding it a "wretched, boring, vulgar little skit"

The story is set in a country house drawing room exploring the shenanigans surrounding a spectacularly inept marriage proposal by the hypochondriac Ivan Vassiliyitch Lomov (Laurence Panter). Unfortunately the resulting buffoonery was tepid. Lacking in energy the characterisations and ludicrous situation collapsed like a soufflé. What we were served was a lumpy custard; a forty-five minute shaggy dog story.

In contrast the second half kicked off with a colourful and lively rendition of Peter Reynolds’ The Sands of Time the Guinness’ records “shortest opera” at 3 minutes 34 seconds. It was a slice of jolliness complete with overture, introductory chorus, arias and recitative.

By their third offering Offenbach’s Le 66 the singers all appeared to have found some comedy acting chops with a witty take on the dangers of extravagance, lovingly ripped-off from 'Allo 'Allo. You know, the story where Helga and Herr Flick meet up with Hans Geering on the way to Strasburg? OK, so I made that up. What it did have was bags of energy, complete with comedy accents, that made the silliness of this charming operette such fun. If they had been able to inject that energy into The Proposal it may have been more engaging.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Topsy-turvy fun: Cal McCrystal directs G&S's Iolanthe - Opera review (*****)
  • Old-fashioned passion: Benjamin Godard's Dante - CD review
  • Korngold's Die tote Stadti at the Semperoper in Dresden - Opera review (****)
  • Powerful stuff: Verdi's La forza del Destino in Cardiff - Opera review (****)
  • A Portrait: composer Dai Fujikura introduces the music at the forthcoming Wigmore Hall concert  - my interview
  • Wagner Der Ring des Nibelungen - Willy Decker's production at the Semperoper, Dresden - opera review
  • A Heine songbook - Robin Tritschler and Christopher Glynn - concert review
  • Intimate and finely judged: Orlando Gibbons complete consort anthems   - CD review
  • Giovanni Croce revealed - motetti & cantiones sacrae - CD review
  • 'You still have to make the right line' - Michael Finnissy day at St John's College, Cambridge  - feature article
  • Singing to create a national identity: the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir - concert review
  • From oboe to podium: Leo Duarte on Handel pasticcios, playing the oboe & period singing style  - my interview
  • Finely balanced casting: Handel's Orlando from La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square - Opera review
  • Home

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