Sunday, 9 September 2018

Just what it says on the tin, an enchanting enchanted island from British Youth Opera

The Enchanted Island - Iúnó Connolly, Alex Bevan - British Youth Opera (Photo Robert Workman)
The Enchanted Island - Iúnó Connolly, Alex Bevan - British Youth Opera (Photo Robert Workman)
The Enchanted Island, devised & written by Jeremy Sams; British Youth Opera, dir: Stuart Barker, Southbank Sinfonia, cond: Nicholas Kramer; Peacock |Theatre Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 7 September 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
A young cast add sparkle to the UK premiere of Jeremy Sams' pasticcio

The Enchanted Island - Natalie Davies, Caroline Taylor, Richard Bignall, James Atkinson - British Youth Opera (Photo Robert Workman)
Natalie Davies, Caroline Taylor, Richard Bignall, James Atkinson
British Youth Opera (Photo Robert Workman)
Premiering at the Metropolitan Opera in 2011 with a starry cast including Joyce DiDonato, Danielle de Niese, David Daniels and Domingo, this week The Enchanted Island was given its European premiere by British Youth Opera at The Peacock Theatre.

Described as a ‘pasticcio’, this ‘juke-box’ opera is lovingly plundered from a treasure trove of your favourite baroque composers including Handel, Vivaldi and Rameau amongst others. Inspired by The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jeremy Sams casts us ashore and weaves a tale of shipwrecks, spells and lovers. The performance of Stuart Barker’s elegant production this Friday September 7 was consistently finely sung by a cast of budding professionals who sank their teeth into this baroque island mash-up with gusto.


Tom Scott-Cowell’s imperiously sung Prospero ruled with a rod of iron. Frances Gregory’s Sycorax brought genuine intensity and pathos to Shakespeare’s unseen character with a rich palette of vocal colour. In her son, Caliban, we had an intensely charismatic and orotund Timothy Edlin who to my mind really gets the shit end of the stick. The poor thing is fobbed off with a book of magic whilst everyone else gets loved up. [sad face

The Enchanted Island - Timothy Edlin, Caroline Taylor - British Youth Opera (Photo Robert Workman)
The Enchanted Island - Timothy Edlin, Caroline Taylor - British Youth Opera (Photo Robert Workman)
Iúnó Connolly, a relentlessly jovial and puckish Ariel, had a cheeky twinkle, and an even cheekier line in ornaments, whose ham-fisted attempts at magic strand the good ship Utopia along with the four lovers from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Keeping up?

Natalie Davies and Caroline Taylor’s characters Hermia and Helena felt a little underwritten but given the opportunity to shine in the duet “Men are fickle” they sparkled. Richard Bignall’s artsy fartsy Demetrius and James Atkinson’s braggadocio Lysander charmed, making hay with their comedy.

Added to the mix were Milly Forrest as the winsome Miranda, Prospero’s daughter, and a sadly underused Tim Morgan as the fashionably late Ferdinand whose all too brief duet with Miranda was enchanting. Just for good measure there’s a rather care-worn Alex Bevan as Neptune – oh how the mighty are fallen.

The Southbank Sinfonia under Nicholas Kraemer played with real elegance and the spirits of the chorus gave a lesson in how it should be done. An enchanting evening indeed.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans

The Enchanted Island - Iúnó Connolly - British Youth Opera (Photo Robert Workman)
The Enchanted Island - Iúnó Connolly - British Youth Opera (Photo Robert Workman)
The Enchanted Island
Devised and written by Jeremy Sams
British Youth Opera
in association with Southbank Sinfonia
Peacock Theatre
Friday September 7
Prospero : Tom Scott-Cowell
Sycorax : Frances Gregory
Ariel : Iúnó Connolly
Caliban : Timothy Edlin
Miranda : Milly Forrest
Neptune : Alex Bevan
Ferdinand : Tim Morgan
Hermia : Natalie Davies
Helena : Caroline Taylor
Demetrius : Richard Bignall
Lysander : James Atkinson
Director : Stuart Barker
Southbank Sinfonia
Conductor : Nicholas Kraemer

A DVD of the original Metropolitan Opera production of The Enchanted Island is available from Amazon.

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